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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 spouse 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 both 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 spouse and I are filing as married filing separately. We both contributed to the support of our son. Can we both claim a dependency exemption for him on our separate returns?
  6. My husband and I were separated the last 11 months of the year and our two minor children lived with me for a greater part of the year than they lived with my husband. 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 a dependency exemption for the child?
  8. Can a state court determine who may claim a dependency exemption for a child?
  9. My son was born on December 31. Can I claim him as a dependent and qualify 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 file my return now and provide her Social Security number later?
  11. My child was stillborn. Can I claim my child as a dependent on my tax return?
  12. If I claim my daughter who is a full-time college student as a dependent, can she claim her own personal exemption when she files her return?

Rev. date: 12/17/2014

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?

As a prospective adoptive parent in the process of adopting a U.S. citizen or resident, you will need a taxpayer identifying number (TIN) to claim a dependency exemption and if eligible, a child tax credit for the child who is being adopted. If as the prospective adoptive parent you do not have and are unable to obtain the child's Social Security number (SSN), you should request an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).  

Rev. date: 12/17/2014

My spouse 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 both her and her son as dependents?

You may be eligible to claim dependency exemptions for both your niece and her son on your return. In order to claim an exemption for someone as your dependent, the person must meet the requirements of either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative and must meet all of the following tests:
  1. Dependent taxpayer test
  2. Citizen or resident test
  3. Joint return test
The requirements of a qualifying child and qualifying relative as well as these three tests can be found in Publication 501, Exemption, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.
Additional Information
Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?

Rev. date: 12/17/2014

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

To claim your child as your dependent, your child must meet the qualifying child test or the qualifying relative test.
As long as you meet all of the following tests, you may claim a dependency exemption for your child:
  1. Qualifying child or qualifying relative test
  2. Dependent taxpayer test
  3. Citizen or resident test, and
  4. Joint return test

Rev. date: 01/20/2015

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

Only one taxpayer may claim a dependency exemption for a child for a tax year. You cannot split this dependency exemption between two or more taxpayers. Generally, the child is the qualifying child of the custodial parent.
However, you may treat the child as the qualifying child or qualifying relative of the noncustodial parent if both of the following conditions are met:
In addition, if the custodial parent releases a claim to the dependency exemption for a child for a specific year, the custodial parent may not claim the child tax credit for that child. See Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals, for more information on the special rule for children of divorced or separated parents.

Rev. date: 12/17/2014

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

No. A dependency exemption for a child may only be claimed on one return in a tax year.

Rev. date: 01/20/2015

My husband and I were separated the last 11 months of the year and our two minor children lived with me for a greater part of the year than they lived with my husband. 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, the IRS will consider you 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: 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).
Additional Information
Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?

Rev. date: 12/17/2014

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

No, child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable income to the payee.
The payer of child support may be able to claim the child as a dependent:

Rev. date: 01/20/2015

Can a state court determine who may claim a dependency exemption for a child?

Federal tax law determines who may claim a dependency exemption for a child. Even if a state court order allocates a dependency exemption for a child to a noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent must comply with the Federal tax law to claim an exemption for the child. To claim an exemption for a child, the noncustodial parent must attach to the noncustodial parent’s return a copy of a release of claim to exemption by the custodial parent. The release may be on a Form 8332 (.pdf), Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a document that conforms to the substance of that form.
Refer to Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals, for more information on the special rule for children of divorced or separated parents.

Rev. date: 12/17/2014

My son was born on December 31. Can I claim him as a dependent and qualify for the child tax credit?

Yes, if your child was born alive during the year and you meet the dependency tests, you may claim him as a dependent and take the full exemption. You may also be entitled to claim the:
Refer to Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information, for more information.

Rev. date: 12/17/2014

My daughter was born at the end of the year. We are still waiting for a Social Security number. Can I file my return now and provide her Social Security number later?

If you file your return claiming your daughter as a dependent and do not provide her Social Security number on your return, the IRS will disallow the dependency exemption.
You have two options:
  1. You could file your income tax return without claiming your daughter as a dependent. After you receive her Social Security number, you could then amend your return on Form 1040X (.pdf), Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You have three years (including extensions) after the date you filed your original return or within two years after the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, to amend your return.
  2. The other option is to file a Form 4868 (.pdf), Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. This would give you an additional six months to file your return; by then you should have your daughter's Social Security number.

Rev. date: 12/17/2014

My child was stillborn. Can I claim my child as a dependent on my tax return?

You cannot claim a dependency exemption for a stillborn child.

Rev. date: 12/17/2014

If I claim my daughter who is a full-time college student as a dependent, can she claim her own personal exemption when she files her return?

If you can claim an exemption for your daughter as a dependent on your income tax return, she cannot claim her own personal exemption on her income tax return. Your daughter should check the box on her return indicating that someone else can claim her as a dependent.