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The IRS allows you to claim a dependent exemption for your qualifying child or qualifying relative who lives with you, to reduce your tax burden. In certain circumstances, you can claim a person as a dependent even if she is married and files her own joint return. In order for you to claim her on your tax return, your dependent must meet certain IRS criteria, including income tests and tests to establish her as either a qualifying child or qualifying relative.
Under IRS rules, a qualifying child can be a son or daughter, stepchild, foster child, adopted child, grandchild, or niece or nephew. The child must be under age 19, or under age 24 if he is a student. There are no age restrictions if the child is permanently disabled. The child must live with you for more than half the year and must not provide more than half of his own support in order to meet the IRS definition of a qualifying child.
A different set of IRS criteria apply to whether someone is your qualifying relative. You must provide more than half of the qualifying relative's support, and he cannot have a gross income of more than $3,700 a year. Despite the name, a "qualifying relative" does not have to be a relative, and he does not have to live with you.
Married Filing Jointly
If a "qualifying child" or "qualifying relative" is married and files a joint tax return with her spouse, it's possible that you can claim him or her as a dependent on your tax return, but only if the couple's income for the year was too low for them to owe any taxes. For example, if someone worked for part of the year and had taxes withheld from her paycheck, she and her husband could file a tax return in order to claim a refund of the money that was withheld. If the couple is required to pay any taxes at all, however, you can’t claim either of them as a dependent.
No one can be counted as an exemption -- whether it's a personal exemption or a dependent exemption -- on more than one tax return. For example, if you claim a dependent exemption for your qualifying child or relative on your tax return, he can’t also claim a personal exemption for himself on his own tax return. When you claim a qualifying child or relative as a dependent on your tax return, you must provide his name and Social Security number on the return.
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