Dependents: What are the tax rules?

Most taxpayers believe that a “dependent” is a minor child that lives with them. While that is essentially correct, dependents can include parents, other relatives and nonrelatives, and even children who don’t live with you. There is really much more to the dependent deduction than you might at first imagine.

* Exemptions and your taxable income. For 2012, each dependent deduction is worth $3,800, reducing your taxable income by this amount. In 2013, the deduction increases to $3,900 and is phased out for high-income taxpayers.

* Dependents defined. It’s impossible to present all of the rules relative to dependents here, since they are so complicated. Generally speaking, if somebody lives with you and you provide more than half of that individual’s support for the entire year, there is a good chance that person is a dependent. There are many exceptions. For example, parents don’t have to live with you if they otherwise qualify, but some other relatives do. A child of divorced parents doesn’t necessarily have to live with the noncustodial spouse for the dependent deduction to apply.

* People who can’t be claimed. Generally, you may not claim a married person as a dependent if that person files a joint return with a spouse. Also, a dependent must be a U.S. citizen, resident alien, national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for part of the year.

* One dependent deduction per individual. If you claim yourself as your own dependent, anybody else who can truly meet the tests and claim you as a dependent will lose out. This is common for college students who file their own tax returns for their part-time jobs, while mom and dad really meet all of the qualifications to claim the dependent exemption.

While the dependent deduction might seem relatively minor, it can lead to other deductions on the tax return. In order to claim the child tax credit, the education credits, the dependent care credit, for example, you must claim the dependent deduction for the child that qualifies for the deduction or credit.

Finally dependent deductions can be negotiated, which is especially important for divorced taxpayers. In the past, the IRS would accept the language of the divorce decree to allow the noncustodial parent the dependent deduction. However, under the current rules, the IRS will no longer accept a divorce decree in lieu of IRS Form 8332 (Release of Exemption).

About Brenda J. McGivern, CPA

Brenda McGivern started her own certified public accounting and management consulting firm in October 2001. The full service CPA firm provides tax and accounting solutions to meet the needs of today's small business and individual. Brenda McGivern has become a trusted advisor and valuable resource her clients rely on for timely, accurate assistance when they need it. Before starting the firm, she worked as an accountant for three years at a local firm and prior to that five years at a large international CPA firm in Boston. She has performed the following tax services: federal, state and local tax planning, international tax planning, estate and succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital retention and IRS representation. She has also coordinated assurance engagements, such as financial statement audits, reviews and compilations from the planning phase through the reporting phase. She has prepared and reviewed regulatory filings for numerous regulatory agencies including the Security and Exchange Commission. Prior to these positions she was selected from over 2,000 candidates into an eight-person intensive financial management program at an international technology company. The program consisted of graduate level classroom study and two six-month rotational assignments in financial operations. She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. McGivern also holds a license in Massachusetts as a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of the American Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. She resides in Stoughton, Massachusetts with her husband Brian, and their sons Sean, Ryan and Conor and their dog, Davis.
This entry was posted in Financial Planning, IRS Articles, Tax and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s