Can a Married Person Filing a Joint Return Be Claimed as a Dependent?

You may still be able to take a deduction for your married child.

mother and daughter love image by Frenk_Danielle Kaufmann from Fotolia.com

When it comes to filing your taxes, everyone wants to ensure they get the maximum tax refund. One way to increase your refund is to make sure you claim as many dependents as you’re legally entitled to – at least for the 2017 tax year. If someone you provide for is married and files a joint return, you need to know the rules so you don’t miss out on a potential tax break, but also so you don’t incur the wrath of the Internal Revenue Service for cheating on your taxes.

Tip

You can only claim a married person who files a joint return as your dependent if the joint return is only filed to claim a refund of all taxes withheld.

Claiming Married Filing Jointly Dependents

The only way that you can claim a married person who files a joint return as a dependent is if the person and their spouse is filing a joint income tax return only to claim a refund of all taxes withheld or estimated taxes paid. This means a complete refund of any amounts withheld. For example, say that your daughter meets the requirements to be claimed as a qualifying child, except that she files a joint return with her spouse. If she and her spouse have had $100 withheld between them from their jobs, and neither has any income tax liability, you can still claim your daughter. However, if they had a tax liability of $40 so they are entitled to a refund of $60, you aren’t allowed to claim your daughter.

Claiming Dependent’s Spouse

Even if you’re allowed to claim one of the people filing the joint return as a dependent, you aren’t allowed to claim the spouse as dependent on your tax return unless the spouse also meets either the qualifying child or qualifying relative. For example, if your daughter meets the qualifying relative tests but her spouse has too much income to meet the criteria, you can claim your daughter but not her spouse.

2018 Dependent Deductions Disallowed

Starting in the 2018 tax year, the tax deduction for each dependent you claim on your tax return has been eliminated. As a result, it won’t save you any money on your taxes by claiming anyone as your dependent, regardless of whether you are claiming a married child or claiming grandchildren on your taxes. But, unless new laws are passed, the exemption will return in the 2026 tax year. However, claiming dependents may still entitle you to other tax deductions or credits.

2017 Tax Savings

When you file your 2017 tax return, each dependent you claim saves you money by reducing your taxable income by $4,050. That doesn’t mean that you’ll pay $4,050 less in income taxes. Instead, your tax savings depend on your tax bracket: The higher your marginal tax rate, the bigger the tax savings. For example, if you fall in the 15 percent tax bracket, an additional dependent claimed saves you $607.50, while if you fall in the 28 percent tax bracket, that same additional dependent would save you $1,134.

Photo Credits

  • mother and daughter love image by Frenk_Danielle Kaufmann from Fotolia.com

About the Author

Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."


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