Retirees often rely on family members for financial support to supplement their Social Security and retirement income. You can claim your mother as a dependent on your income tax return if she meets certain tests to be considered your "qualifying relative." Among other things, your mother's gross income and the amount of support you provide determine whether you can claim her on your tax return.
Dependent Exemption Basics
The Internal Revenue Service offers a tax exemption that reduces taxable income by $3,800 for each dependent you claim on your tax return. Generally speaking, dependents include children and adults whom you support financially. Certain adults must live with you the entire year as a member of your household to qualify as your dependents, but your parent does not have to live with you to qualify.
Gross Income Test
The gross income test requires your qualifying relative to have gross taxable income that is less than a dependent exemption. In other words, your parent needs to make less than $3,800 a year to qualify as your dependent. Tax-exempt income, such as certain Social Security benefits, is not included in gross income. If Social Security is your mother's only income source, her benefits are not taxable so she meets the gross income test.
The support test requires you to provide more than half of your mother's support for the year to claim her as your dependent. For example, if your mother receives $3,000 from Social Security and spends $2,000 of that income to support herself, you must spend at least $2,001 on her support to claim her as a dependent. Income your parent receives but does not spend does not count as support.
In some cases, several children or other relations work together to provide support for older family members. If no individual provides more than half of your mother's support, but two or more people provide for more than half of her support, one of the caregivers that provides more than 10 percent of her support can claim her as a dependent. The support providers who do not claim the exemption must sign a statement agreeing not to claim the exemption.
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 501 - Main Content
- Internal Revenue Service: Personal Exemptions and Dependents
- Internal Revenue Service: Six Important Facts about Dependents and Exemptions
- Internal Revenue Service: In 2012, Many Tax Benefits Increase Due to Inflation Adjustments
- Internal Revenue Service: Gross Income Test
- Internal Revenue Service: Are Your Social Security Benefits Taxable?
Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.