A domestic partnership is a relationship between two unmarried adults who live together as a married couple but are not officially married. Although some states allow unmarried couples to file jointly, if the domestic relationship does not fall under the Internal Revenue Service code, you cannot file a federal return with your partner. However, claiming your domestic partner as a dependent is an option, if your partner meets the requirements.
To claim your domestic partner as a dependent on your taxes, your partner must meet the requirements of a qualifying dependent. Your partner must have lived with you the entire year and you must have paid at least half of your partner's support. Your partner cannot earn more than the annual personal exemption amount, which is $3,900 as of 2013. Finally, your partner must be a U.S. citizen, resident alien, U.S. national, or a citizen of Canada or Mexico.
Under the IRS code, a couple is considered married if the relationship is a legal union between a man and a woman. The couple must live together as husband and wife or live separately, but not be legally separated. If the state recognizes a domestic partnership as a common-law marriage, the couple can file federal income taxes using a married filing status.
The IRS abides by most state laws, with the exception of same-sex couples. The federal tax code does not recognize same-sex marriages nor does the law recognize same-sex common-law marriage, even if the state approves the union. While this means that same-sex couples cannot file a federal tax return using a married status, the law does not exclude claiming a domestic partner as a dependent.
State and Local Laws
If the relationship between you and your partner violates any state or local laws, you cannot claim your partner as a dependent. For example, as of 2013, in Florida, Mississippi and Michigan, it is illegal for two or more people, who are involved in an intimate relationship, to live together without being married. Because cohabiting in any of these states is illegal, the IRS will not allow you to claim your partner as a dependent.
Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.