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IRS.gov Website

Frequently Asked Tax Questions

Filing Requirements/Status/Dependents/Exemptions - Dependents & Exemptions

  1. I am adopting a child and do not yet have a social security number for the child. How can I claim an exemption for the child?
  2. My husband and I have provided a home for my niece and her son for the past seven months. She receives no child support from her ex-spouse, and she does not work or have any income of her own. Can I claim her and her son as dependents?
  3. Is there an age limit on claiming my child as a dependent?
  4. May divorced or legally separated parents split the dependency exemption for a child?
  5. My wife and I are married filing separately. We both contributed to the support of our son. Can we both claim a dependency exemption for him on our separate return?
  6. My husband and I were separated the last 11 months of the year and our two minor children lived with me for the greater part of the year. My husband provided all the financial support. Who can claim the children as dependents on the tax return?
  7. Are child support payments deductible by the payer or can the payer claim an exemption for the child?
  8. Can a court order determine who may claim a dependency exemption for a child? Does the court order supersede the IRS requirements?
  9. My son was born on December 31st. Can I claim him as a dependent? If so, will he be also qualified for the Child Tax Credit?
  10. My daughter was born at the end of the year. We are still waiting for a social security number. Can I send in my return and later supply the social security number for her?
  11. My child was stillborn. He died right before he was delivered. Can I claim my child?
  12. If I claim my daughter as a dependent because she is a full-time college student, can she claim herself as a dependent when she files her return?

Rev. date: 11/1/2011

I am adopting a child and do not yet have a social security number for the child. How can I claim an exemption for the child?

A prospective adoptive parent in the process of adopting a U.S. citizen or resident needs a taxpayer identifying number (TIN) to claim a dependency exemption and (if eligible) a child tax credit for the child being adopted. If the prospective adoptive parent does not have and/or is unable to obtain the child's Social Security Number (SSN), the prospective adoptive parent should request an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN).   An ATIN is available if the child has been placed by an authorized placement agency in the household of a prospective adoptive parent for legal adoption. To obtain an ATIN, use Form W-7A (PDF), Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions.

• To get Form W-7A, you may also download the form here in Adobe PDF format.
• You may go to any IRS walk-in site.
• You may call 800-829-3676.
• For more information about the ATIN, refer to the Form W-7A (PDF), instructions.

If the child is not a U. S. citizen or resident, use Form W-7 (PDF), Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, to obtain an ITIN. For more information, refer to Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

Rev. date: 11/21/2011

My husband and I have provided a home for my niece and her son for the past seven months. She receives no child support from her ex-spouse, and she does not work or have any income of her own. Can I claim her and her son as dependents?

In order to be your dependents, your niece and her child must meet the following tests:
  1. Qualifying child or qualifying relative test
  2. Dependent Taxpayer test
  3. Citizenship or resident test
  4. Joint return test

Rev. date: 11/21/2011

Is there an age limit on claiming my child as a dependent?

Age is a factor in the qualifying child test, but a qualifying relative can be any age.
As long as the following tests are met, you may claim a dependency exemption for your child:
  1. Qualifying child or qualifying relative test
  2. Dependent taxpayer test
  3. Citizenship or resident test
  4. Joint return test

Rev. date: 11/22/2011

May divorced or legally separated parents split the dependency exemption for a child?

Only one taxpayer may claim a dependency exemption for a child in a tax year. Generally, the child is the qualifying child of the custodial parent.
However, the child may be treated as the qualifying child or qualifying relative of the noncustodial parent if certain conditions are met:
Refer to Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information or Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals, for more information on the special rule for children of divorced or separated parents.

Rev. date: 11/22/2011

My wife and I are married filing separately. We both contributed to the support of our son. Can we both claim a dependency exemption for him on our separate return?

A dependency exemption for a child may only be claimed on one return in a tax year.
 

Rev. date: 11/22/2011

My husband and I were separated the last 11 months of the year and our two minor children lived with me for the greater part of the year. My husband provided all the financial support. Who can claim the children as dependents on the tax return?

Since your children lived with you for the greater part of the year, you are considered the custodial parent. Generally, a child is the qualifying child of the custodial parent. Your husband may be able to claim an exemption for a child if you release a claim to exemption for the child by completing Form 8332 (PDF), Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or by signing a substantially similar statement and your husband attaches it to his return.

• Note that if you release a claim to exemption for a child, you may not claim a Child Tax Credit for that child.

Refer to Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information or Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals, for more information on the special rule for children of divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart.

Rev. date: 11/22/2011

Are child support payments deductible by the payer or can the payer claim an exemption for the child?

Child support payments are not deductible by the payer.

The payer of child support may be able to claim the child as a dependent.
 

Rev. date: 11/23/2011

Can a court order determine who may claim a dependency exemption for a child? Does the court order supersede the IRS requirements?

Federal law determines who may claim a dependency exemption.

Rev. date: 11/23/2011

My son was born on December 31st. Can I claim him as a dependent? If so, will he be also qualified for the Child Tax Credit?

If your child was born alive during the year, and the dependency tests are met, you may take the full exemption.

Rev. date: 11/23/2011

My daughter was born at the end of the year. We are still waiting for a social security number. Can I send in my return and later supply the social security number for her?

If you file your return claiming your daughter as a dependent and do not provide her social security number on the return, the dependency exemption will be disallowed.
You have two options.
You could file your income tax return without claiming your daughter as a dependent.
The other option is to file a Form 4868 (PDF), Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Rev. date: 1/1/2011

My child was stillborn. He died right before he was delivered. Can I claim my child?

You cannot claim a dependency exemption for a stillborn child.

Rev. date: 1/1/2011

If I claim my daughter as a dependent because she is a full-time college student, can she claim herself as a dependent when she files her return?

If you claim your daughter as a dependent on your income tax return, she cannot claim herself on her income tax return.