As your children get older, they usually become more self-reliant and independent from you. In many cases, you'll also lose the ability to claim them as a dependent on your tax returns. If your child is over 18, or over 23 if she's a full-time student, you can't claim her as a qualifying child any more. However, if you meet the criteria to claim your child as a qualifying relative, you can still claim her.
To claim any person as a dependent, that person must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or a resident of Canada or Mexico. In addition, you can't claim your adult child as a dependent if she files a joint return unless the return is only to claim a refund and neither spouse would have any tax liability if the couple filed separately. Finally, since your child satisfies the relationship test, she doesn't have to live with you the entire year.
Gross Income Limit
The gross income limit test prohibits you from claiming an adult child who has more gross income for the year than the value of a personal exemption. Gross income includes all income that is not exempt from tax. As of 2012, the gross income limit is $3,800. For example, if your adult child works a summer job and earns $4,000 in 2012, you can't claim him because he does not satisfy the gross income limit test.
The third criteria requires that you provide more than half of your adult child's support. Support includes just about any living expense, such as food, lodging, clothing, medical costs and educational costs. Only costs actually paid are included, and scholarships do not count as support provided by the child. For example, if your son receives a $5,000 scholarship to graduate school but otherwise has no income and you pay for all of his expenses, you meet the support test.
How to Claim
Even though you claim your child as a dependent relative rather than a dependent child, it still appears in the same place on your income tax return. To claim dependents, you have to file using either Form 1040 or Form 1040A. On line 6c, report your adult child's first and last name, Social Security number and relationship to you. Add that dependent to the other exemptions you claim and report the total number of exemptions on line 6d.
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