Mary Currie

Mary Currie

Complex rules govern claiming a dependent

By Mary Currie
Business Columnist

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Every year, the questions that comes up over and over is, “Can I claim him (or her) as my dependent?”

There are several criteria that must be met to determine if someone can be claimed as a dependent. Some of the basic ones are:

  • A dependent must be a U.S. citizen, a resident alien or a resident of a contiguous country.
  • The person cannot be claimed as a dependent of someone else.
  • The taxpayer cannot be a dependent of someone else.
  • A relative must live in the same home for more than half of the year. There are exceptions such as absences due to school or illness. Other than specific relatives listed in U.S. tax laws, other individuals have to live in the same home of the taxpayer for the entire year.
  • You must provide more than half of the person’s support for the year. Some of these costs include clothing, dental and medical expenses, education costs, entertainment (toys, camps, vacations), child care, food, lodging and toiletries.
  • The taxpayer cannot have signed documents to release to another parent the right to claim the dependent. The custodial parent would have to fill out and sign U.S. Internal Revenue Service Form 8332 to release the ability to claim the exemption for the dependent, and the noncustodial parent would have to send in a copy of Form 8332 with his or her tax return to claim the dependent’s exemption. This agreement usually is part of a divorce or legal separation.
  • A dependent’s age normally must be younger than 24 if he or she still is a student. Otherwise, he or she must be younger than 19.
  • The gross income amount allowed for a dependent exemption for 2014 must be less than $3,950 for 2014 and $4,000 for 2015.

You might meet these basic tests to claim someone as a dependent; however, there are more tests to meet to claim other dependent credits. These include:

  • For the Child Tax Credit, the dependent must be younger than 17 at year’s end unless he or she is disabled.
  • For the Dependent Care Credit, the dependent must be younger than 13 at year’s end unless he or she is disabled.

You can find additional information at irs.gov.

Mary Currie is a certified public accountant practicing in Rocky Mount.

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