Do You Have to Be Legally Married to Claim Your Boyfriend on Your Taxes?

Claiming your boyfriend as a dependent lowers your taxes.

tax forms image by Chad McDermott from

Being married has its benefits come tax time: not only can you file a joint return, you can also claim an additional exemption for your spouse. If you're not married, you can't file a joint return with your boyfriend. You might be able to claim him on your taxes as a dependent, but it's unlikely: the criteria are pretty stringent.

Gross Income Test

Potentially the most difficult test to satisfy is that your boyfriend cannot have more gross income than the value of a personal exemption. For example, in 2012, each exemption is worth $3,800, so if your boyfriend has a job that pays him $3,801 or more, you can't claim him. Gross income includes all of his taxable income for the year before any deductions.

Residency Requirement

Although a boyfriend is not actually a legal "relative" for tax purposes it's possible to claim your boyfriend as a "dependent relative," but he had to have lived with you for the entire year, because he's not going to meet the relationship test, as for example a brother or nephew would. The IRS does recognizes exceptions for absences due to business, vacations, education, sickness or military service.

Support Test

You must provide more than half of your boyfriend's support. His support includes the costs of living such as housing, food, clothing, medical care and recreation. For example, if you pay for all of your boyfriend's living expenses, you can claim him. However, if he pays for half and you pay for half, you can't claim him because you haven't paid for more than half.

Citizenship or Residency

Your boyfriend must be an American citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico. If your boyfriend is not one of these categories, you cannot claim him as a dependent on your income taxes.