If you're like most parents, your love for your child knows no bounds, but you're also aware that he saves you money at tax time. The Internal Revenue Service acknowledges that raising your child costs a lot of money, and it allows you to claim a dependent deduction for him. The question becomes how long you can take that deduction. The IRS set some rules for this with the passage of the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004.
Claiming your 19-year-old as a dependent depends on when he turned 19. If he turned 19 on or before Dec. 31 of the tax year, you can't claim him unless he's a student. However, if you're preparing your taxes in April for the previous year, and if he turned 19 in January, he qualifies as your dependent. The guiding rule is how old he was on the last day of the year. Special rules exist if your child is disabled. In this case, there's no age limit.
The IRS allows you to extend the age limit for your dependent child by five years if he's enrolled in school. You can claim your child until age 24 if he goes to college, but he must attend full time. Taking a class now and again won't earn you a dependent exemption. He must also attend five months out of the tax year to qualify.
The IRS also monitors whether your child lives with you. This rule requires that he have the "same principal residence" as you for more than six months of the tax year. Temporary absences from your home don't count as living elsewhere. If your child lives in a dorm while attending school, that's OK.
The other catch to claiming your 19-year-old involves how much money he earns on his own and what he spends it on. For your child to qualify as your dependent, you must pay at least half his support during the tax year. This includes shelter and food but not tuition. If your child works while attending school, and if he earns $20,000, but your costs of supporting him were $40,001, he's your dependent if he meets all other qualifications. Even if he earned more than half of what you spent on his support, if he didn't use the money to service his living expenses, you can claim him.
If your child is married, this doesn't prevent you from taking a dependent deduction for him, provided neither he nor his spouse had any tax liability in the year during which you want to claim him. However, your child can't claim a standard deduction on his own tax return if he qualifies as your dependent.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally for over 30 years. She specializes in personal finance and w, bankruptcy, and she writes as the tax expert for The Balance.