Are they my Dependent? Qualifying Child

February 8, 2012Comments Off on Are they my Dependent? Qualifying Child

According to the IRS list of Frequently Asked Tax Questions, there is some confusion out there as to exactly when a taxpayer can claim someone as a dependent. So let’s see if we can shed some light on the subject.

There are two categories for claiming a dependent, a Qualifying Child, and a Qualifying Relative. In this article, we are looking at the requirements for a Qualifying Child. The IRS has a specific definition of what a child is. To claim someone as a dependent, they must pass 5 tests:

  1. Relationship to the Tax Payer
  2. Age of the individual
  3. Residency
  4. Support
  5. Filing status


In order to claim them as a dependent, the child must a descendant directly related to you (or your spouse). This means your child (including adopted and foster), your brothers & sisters (by blood or marriage), or any of their descendants (nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.)


To be a qualifying child, they must be under 19, a full time student under 24, or permanently disabled as of December 31st. In addition, any brothers or sisters you are supporting must be younger than you or your spouse in order to claim them as a qualifying child.


The child in question must live with you for more than half of the year. The IRS does recognize specific exemptions from this rule for temporary absences (college, military service, illness, etc), births, deaths, kidnapping, and divorce. Be sure to discuss with your tax adviser the exact nature of your child’s absences in order to determine if they qualify.


To claim someone as a qualifying child, they cannot provide more than 50% of their support for the year. Please note that unlike a qualifying relative where you must provide half of their support, for a qualifying child the test is that they did not provide half – meaning if you receive support form a third party it does not count against you.

Filing Status

With the current economic difficulties, many young married couples are finding themselves back at their parents’ home. If the couple is filing a joint return (unless it is just to receive a refund – no taxable income), then the parents they are living with cannot claim them as a qualifying child.

qr code generatorAll of these tests have special considerations and exceptions that may effect your individual situation, so be sure to discuss them with a professional if there are any questions. And remember that just because they are not a Qualifying Child, they may still be a Qualifying Relative, allowing you to still claim them as a deduction (watch for an upcoming article on Qualifying Relatives)

About author:

Scott Macklin, E.A. is an Enrolled Agent at Darrel Whitehead CPAs and has been working in public accounting for over 15 years. Scott specializes in corporate taxation and consulting, primarily on start-up infrastructure, technology, and international tax reporting.

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