Tax guide

Who Can You Claim

Updated for filing 2021 tax returns

Who can I claim as a dependent on my tax return?

infographic on dependentsLet’s break down the IRS requirements for correctly adding dependents to your tax return.

First and foremost, a dependent is someone you support: You must have provided at least half of the person’s total support for the year — food, shelter, clothing, etc. If your adult daughter, for example, lived with you but provided at least half of her own support, you probably can’t claim her as a dependent.

For a quick overview of who you can claim, see our infographic.

Note: Claiming dependents no longer gets you a personal exemption, as the personal exemption was eliminated in favor of a much higher standard deduction.

What are the basic rules for claiming a dependent?

Dependents are usually, but not always, a child or other relative. Qualifying children and qualifying relatives have their own additional requirements, but all dependents must meet these requirements:

  • Dependents can have their own tax returns, and even be married, but they must not have filed a joint tax return for the year unless it’s just to claim a refund.
  • They must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
  • They must have a taxpayer identification number. That’s usually a Social Security Number, but if the child doesn’t qualify for one, it can be an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN).

Also, if you are considered a dependent yourself, you can’t claim another person as a dependent.

Are there special rules for claiming a child as a dependent?

When you’re claiming a dependent who is a child, there are further requirements:

  • The child has to have lived with you for at least half of the year.
  • The child must not have provided more than half of his or her own support for the year.
  • The child has to be related to you as a son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of those.
  • The child must be 18 or younger at the end of the year, or under 24 if a student. To be a student, the child must have attended school full-time during at least five months of the year. The five months don’t have to be in a row.
  • The child must be younger than you (or your spouse, if married filing jointly), unless the child is disabled.

Can I claim older relatives or unrelated persons as dependents on my tax return?

Yes, provided they meet the following requirements:

  • The person can’t be a qualifying dependent of another person—you can’t claim the person if someone else already has.
  • The person must be either related to you or must have lived with you all year as a member of your household.
  • The person's gross income for the year must be less than $4,300.
  • You must provide more than half of the person's total support for the year.Sign Up

Could my adult dependent still be required to file a tax return?

Yes—your adult dependent may still need to file a tax return in certain situations.

If your single dependent was under age 65 and not blind in 2020, they must file a tax return if they had:

  • Unearned income more than $1,100
  • Earned income more than $12,550
  • Gross income more than the larger of:
    • $1,100
    • Earned income up to $12,050 plus $350

If your single dependent was blind or age 65+ they must file a tax return if they had:

  • Unearned income more than $2,800
  • Earned income more than $14,250
  • Gross income more than the larger of:
    • $2,800
    • Earned income up to $12,200 plus $2,050

If your single dependent was age 65+ and blind, they must file a tax return if they had:

  • Unearned income more than $4,500.
  • Earned income more than $15,950.
  • Gross income more than the larger of:
    • $4,500
    • Earned income up to $12,200 plus $3,750

For more info, check out Do I Need to File?

Now that you know how to claim dependents, let’s file your tax return!

At 1040.com, we make filing simple to file your taxes and add dependents of all ages. Sign up or log in today to get started!

Also see:

Child Tax Credits
Claiming a Parent as a Dependent
Claiming a Child When You’re Divorced or Separated

 

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