IRS Dependent Rules

For tax purposes, the definition of a dependent may go beyond what you think of a dependent. The Internal Revenue Service has rules for taxpayers to claim their dependents as “dependents”. 

As you would imagine, a dependent for tax purposes under the IRS guidelines is someone that you support. The dependent can be your child, brother, sister, adopted child, foster child, and other related or non-related people. The age of the dependent is what matters the most. For this reason, we can split dependent rules into two different categories.

Dependents pursuing higher education

If you have a child that goes to university or college, aged between 18 and 24, the chances of you claiming him or her as a dependent are very high. Because they are adults, they must not have a requirement to file a federal income tax return. What this means is that they:

  • Had unearned income of less than $1,100
  • Had earned income of less than $12,400

Other than the above eligibility requirements for you to claim them as a dependent on your federal income tax return, they must meet the rest of the rules which are the same for the following type of dependents.

Dependents under the age of 17

The dependents under the age of 17 and those who are between the ages of 18 and 24 have pretty much the same rules. During the tax year, the dependent must meet the following conditions to have a pass to be claimed as a dependent for tax purposes.

  • The dependent did not cover more than half of his or her financial support.
  • The dependent has lived with the taxpayer for at least half the tax year. This rule is often confusing taxpayers. If your dependent is studying at university or college, or even high school, the duration of the school is counted as lived with you. 
  • The dependent is a U.S. citizen, a U.S. resident alien, or a U.S. national.
  • The dependent is under the age of 17 by the end of the tax year or between the ages of 18 and 24 by the end of the tax year. 

The above requirements are pretty self-explanatory and there shouldn’t be any hardships to meet the requirements. The Internal Revenue Service is very strict about the dependent rules and they cannot be bent by any means. So, if your dependent doesn’t qualify under the rules and you can claim as a dependent, there isn’t much to do.

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