Generally, you can deduct $3,500 for each exemption you claim in 2008. However, if your adjusted gross income is more than $119,975 see Phaseout of Exemptions
There are two types of exemptions: personal exemptions and exemptions for dependents. If you are entitled to claim an exemption for a dependent (such as your child), that dependent cannot claim his or her personal exemption on his or her own tax return.taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044164
You can claim your own exemption unless someone else can claim it. If you are married, you may be able to take an exemption for your spouse. These are called personal exemptions. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044165
Your spouse is never considered your dependent. You may be able to take an exemption for your spouse only because you are married. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044166
On a joint return, you can claim one exemption for yourself and one for your spouse.
If your spouse had any gross income, you can claim his or her exemption only if you file a joint return. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044167
If you file a separate return, you can take an exemption for your spouse only if your spouse had no gross income, is not filing a return, and was not the dependent of another taxpayer. If your spouse is the dependent of another taxpayer, you cannot claim an exemption for your spouse even if the other taxpayer does not actually claim your spouse's exemption. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044168
If you paid alimony to your spouse, you cannot take an exemption for your spouse. This is because alimony is gross income to the spouse who received it. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044169
If you obtained a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance by the end of the year, you cannot take your former spouse's exemption. This rule applies even if you provided all of your former spouse's support. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044170
You are allowed one exemption for each person you can claim as a dependent. You can claim an exemption for a dependent even if your dependent files a return.
The term "dependent" means:
- A qualifying child, or
- A qualifying relative.
shows the tests that must be met to be either a qualifying child or qualifying relative, plus the additional requirements for claiming an exemption for a dependent. For detailed information, see Publication 501. Note:
Beginning in 2009, there will be additional tests that a qualifying child must meet. For more information, see Qualifying child definition revised,
under What's New for 2009,
in the instructions for Form 1040.
Dependent not allowed a personal exemption.
If you can claim an exemption for your dependent, the dependent cannot claim his or her own exemption on his or her own tax return. This is true even if you do not claim the dependent's exemption on your return or if the exemption will be reduced under the phaseout rule described under Phaseout of Exemptions,
Table 3. Overview of the Rules for Claiming an Exemption for a Dependent Caution. This table is only an overview of the rules. For details, see Publication 501.
|•||You cannot claim any dependents if you, or your spouse if filing jointly, could be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer. |
|•||You cannot claim a married person who files a joint return as a dependent unless that joint return is only a claim for refund and there would be no tax liability for either spouse on separate returns. |
|•||You cannot claim a person as a dependent unless that person is a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico, for some part of the year.1 |
|•||You cannot claim a person as a dependent unless that person is your qualifying child or qualifying relative.|
| ||Tests To Be a Qualifying Child|| ||Tests To Be a Qualifying Relative|
|The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them. |
The child must be (a) under age 19 at the end of the year, (b) under age 24 at the end of the year and a full-time student, or (c) any age if permanently and totally disabled.
The child must have lived with you for more than half of the year.2
The child must not have provided more than half of his or her own support for the year.
If the child meets the rules to be a qualifying child of more than one person, you must be the person entitled to claim the child as a qualifying child. (See Special test for qualifying child of more than one person, later.)
|The person cannot be your qualifying child or the qualifying child of anyone else. |
The person either (a) must be related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you, in Publication 501, or (b) must live with you all year as a member of your household (and your relationship must not violate local law).2
The person's gross income for the year must be less than $3,500.3
You must provide more than half of the person's total support for the year.4
|1 Exception exists for certain adopted children. |
|2 Exceptions exist for temporary absences, children who were born or died during the year, children of divorced or separated parents, and kidnapped children. |
|3 Exception exists for persons who are disabled and have income from a sheltered workshop. |
|4 Exceptions exist for multiple support agreements, children of divorced or separated parents, and kidnapped children. See Publication 501. |
You may be entitled to a child tax credit for each qualifying child who was under age 17 at the end of the year. For more information, see the instructions in your tax forms package.
A dependent is either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative. In most cases, because of the residency test (see item (3) under Tests To Be a Qualifying Child
in Table 3
), a child of divorced or separated parents will qualify as a dependent of the custodial parent under the rules for a qualifying child. However, the noncustodial parent may be able to claim the exemption for the child if the special rule
(discussed next) applies.
A child will be treated as the qualifying child or qualifying relative of his or her noncustodial parent if all of the following apply.
- The parents:
- Are divorced or legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance,
- Are separated under a written separation agreement, or
- Lived apart at all times during the last 6 months of the year.
- The child received over half of his or her support for the year from the parents.
- The child is in the custody of one or both parents for more than half of the year.
- Either of the following applies.
- The custodial parent signs a written declaration, discussed later, that he or she will not claim the child as a dependent for the year, and the noncustodial parent attaches this written declaration to his or her return. (If the decree or agreement went into effect after 1984, see Divorce decree or separation agreement made after 1984, later.)
- A pre-1985 decree of divorce or separate maintenance or written separation agreement that applies to 2008 states that the noncustodial parent can claim the child as a dependent, the decree or agreement was not changed after 1984 to say the noncustodial parent cannot claim the child as a dependent, and the noncustodial parent provides at least $600 for the child's support during 2008. See Child support under pre-1985 agreement, later.
If the support of the child is determined under a multiple support agreement, this special rule for divorced or separated parents does not apply. See Multiple Support Agreement in Publication 501 for more information.
The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lived for the greater part of the year. The other parent is the noncustodial parent.
If the parents divorced or separated during the year and the child lived with both parents before the separation, the custodial parent is the one with whom the child lived for the greater part of the rest of the year. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044177
Under the terms of your divorce, your child lived with you for 10 months of the year. The child lived with your former spouse for the other 2 months. You are considered the custodial parent.taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044178
The custodial parent must use either Form 8332 or a similar statement (containing the same information required by the form) to make the written declaration to release the exemption to the noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent must attach the form or statement to his or her tax return.
The exemption can be released for 1 year, for a number of specified years (for example, alternate years), or for all future years, as specified in the declaration. If the exemption is released for more than 1 year, the original release must be attached to the return of the noncustodial parent for the first year, and a copy must be attached for each later year.taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044179
If the divorce decree or separation agreement went into effect after 1984, the noncustodial parent can attach certain pages from the decree or agreement instead of Form 8332. To be able to do this, the decree or agreement must state all three of the following.
- The noncustodial parent can claim the child as a dependent without regard to any condition, such as payment of support.
- The custodial parent will not claim the child as a dependent for the year.
- The years for which the noncustodial parent, rather than the custodial parent, can claim the child as a dependent.
The noncustodial parent must attach all of the following pages of the decree or agreement to his or her return.
- The cover page (write the other parent's social security number on this page).
- The pages that include all of the information identified in items (1) through (3) above.
- The signature page with the other parent's signature and the date of the agreement.
The noncustodial parent must attach the required information even if it was filed with a return in an earlier year.
Beginning in 2009, a noncustodial parent claiming an exemption for a child can no longer attach certain pages from a divorce decree or separation agreement instead of Form 8332. The noncustodial parent must attach Form 8332 or similar statement signed by the custodial parent. The only purpose of this statement must be to release the custodial parent's claim to the child's exemption. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044181
If you remarry, the support provided by your new spouse is treated as provided by you.taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044182
All child support payments actually received from the noncustodial parent under a pre-1985 agreement are considered used for the support of the child, even if such amounts are not actually spent for child support. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044183
Under a pre-1985 agreement, the noncustodial parent provides $1,200 for the child's support. This amount is considered support provided by the noncustodial parent even if the $1,200 was actually spent on things other than support. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044184
The special rule for divorced or separated parents also applies to parents who never married.taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044185
The tests that must be met for treating a child as a qualifying relative include the support test (see item (4) listed under Tests To Be a Qualifying Relative
in Table 3
). The following special rules apply for determining whether the support test is met.
Payments to your spouse that are includible in his or her gross income as either alimony, separate maintenance payments, or similar payments from an estate or trust, are not treated as a payment for the support of a dependent.taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044187
If you remarry, the support provided by your new spouse is treated as provided by you.taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044188
Sometimes, a child meets the relationship, age, residency, and support tests to be a qualifying child of more than one person. (For a description of these tests, see list items (1) through (4) under Tests To Be a Qualifying Child
in Table 3.
) Although the child is a qualifying child of each of these persons, only one person can actually treat the child as a qualifying child. To meet this special test, you must be the person who can treat the child as a qualifying child.
If you and another person have the same qualifying child, you and the other person(s) can decide which of you will treat the child as a qualifying child. That person can take all of the following tax benefits (provided the person is eligible for each benefit) based on the qualifying child.
- The exemption for the child.
- The child tax credit.
- Head of household filing status.
- The credit for child and dependent care expenses.
- The exclusion from income for dependent care benefits.
- The earned income credit.
The other person cannot take any of these benefits based on this qualifying child. In other words, you and the other person cannot agree to divide these tax benefits between you.
If you and the other person(s) cannot agree on who will claim the child and more than one person files a return claiming the same child, the IRS will disallow all but one of the claims using the tie-breaker rule in Table 4. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#w15006i04
Table 4. When More Than One Person Files a Return Claiming
the Same Qualifying Child (Tie-Breaker Rule)
| ||IF more than one person files a return claiming the same qualifying child and ...||THEN the child will be treated as the qualifying child of |
| || ||only one of the persons is the child's parent,|| ||parent.|| |
| || ||two of the persons are the child's parents and they do not file a joint return together,|| ||parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time during the year.|| |
| || ||two of the persons are the child's parents, they do not file a joint return together, and the child lived with each parent the same amount of time during the year, || ||parent with the higher adjusted gross income (AGI).|| |
| || ||none of the persons are the child's parent,|| ||person with the highest AGI.|| |
Example 1—separated parents.(p10)
You, your husband, and your 10-year-old son lived together until August 1, 2008, when your husband moved out of the household. In August and September, your son lived with you. For the rest of the year, your son lived with your husband. Your son is a qualifying child of both you and your husband because your son lived with each of you for more than half the year and because he met the relationship, age, and support tests for both of you. At the end of the year, you and your husband still were not divorced, legally separated, or separated under a written separation agreement and you and he did not live apart for the last 6 months of the year, so the special rule for divorced or separated parents does not apply.
You and your husband will file separate returns. Your husband agrees to let you treat your son as a qualifying child. This means, if your husband does not claim your son as a qualifying child, you can claim your son as a dependent and treat him as a qualifying child for the child tax credit and exclusion for dependent care benefits, if you qualify for each of those tax benefits. However, you cannot claim head of household filing status because you and your husband did not live apart the last 6 months of the year. As a result, your filing status is married filing separately, so you cannot claim the earned income credit or the credit for child and dependent care expenses.taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044191
Example 2—separated parents claim same child.(p10)
The facts are the same as in Example 1
except that you and your husband both claim your son as a qualifying child. In this case, only your husband will be allowed to treat your son as a qualifying child. This is because, during 2008, the boy lived with him longer than with you. If you claimed an exemption, the child tax credit, head of household filing status, credit for child and dependent care expenses, exclusion for dependent care benefits, or the earned income credit for your son, the IRS will disallow your claim to all these tax benefits. In addition, because you and your husband did not live apart for the last 6 months of the year, your husband cannot claim head of household filing status. As a result, his filing status is married filing separately, so he cannot claim the earned income credit or the credit for child and dependent care expenses.
If a child is treated as the qualifying child of the noncustodial parent under the special rule for divorced or separated parents described earlier, only the noncustodial parent can claim an exemption and the child tax credit for the child. However, the noncustodial parent cannot claim the child for head of household filing status, the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the exclusion for dependent care benefits, and the earned income credit. Only the custodial parent (or other eligible taxpayer) can claim the child as a qualifying child for these four tax benefits. taxmap/pubs/p504-001.htm#en_us_publink100044193
The amount you can claim as a deduction for exemptions is reduced once your adjusted gross income (AGI) goes above a certain level for your filing status. These levels are as follows:
| ||AGI Level|
| ||That Reduces|
|Filing Status ||Exemption Amount|
|Married filing separately||$119,975 |
|Single|| 159,950 |
|Head of household||199,950|
|Married filing jointly|| 239,950 |
You must reduce the dollar amount of your exemptions by 2% for each $2,500, or part of $2,500 ($1,250 if you are married filing separately), that your AGI exceeds the amount shown above for your filing status. However, you can lose no more than one-third of the dollar amount of your exemptions. In other words, each exemption cannot be reduced to less than $2,333.
If your AGI exceeds the level for your filing status, use the Deduction for Exemptions Worksheet, found in the instructions for Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040NR to figure the amount of your deduction for exemptions.