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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 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 requirements under Federal tax law?
  9. My son was born on December 31. 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 her social security number?
  11. My child was stillborn. Can I claim my child as a dependent on my tax return?
  12. If I claim my daughter as a dependent because she is a full-time college student, can she claim her own personal exemption when she files her return?

Rev. date: 12/13/2013

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 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.  For more information about the ATIN, refer to the Form W-7A and to Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number.
If the child is not a U.S. citizen or resident, and the child qualifies as a dependent, the child still requires a TIN.  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 (ITIN).

Rev. date: 12/13/2013

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.

Rev. date: 12/16/2013

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

To be claimed as your dependent, your child must meet the qualifying child test or the qualifying relative test.  To meet the qualifying child test, your child must be younger than you and, as of the end of the calendar year, either be younger than 19 years old or be a student and younger than 24 years old.  There is no age limit on claiming your child as a dependent if the child meets the qualifying relative test.
As long as all of 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. Citizen or resident test, and
  4. Joint return test.

Rev. date: 12/13/2013

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. This dependency exemption cannot be split between two or more taxpayers. 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 both of the following conditions are met:
In addition, if the custodial parent releases a claim to the dependency exemption for a child, the custodial parent may not claim the 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.

Rev. date: 12/13/2013

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: 12/13/2013

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, 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.
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: 12/13/2013

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


Rev. date: 12/13/2013

Can a court order determine who may claim a dependency exemption for a child? Does the court order supersede the requirements under Federal tax law?

Federal tax law determines who may claim a dependency exemption.  A court order cannot determine who may claim a dependency exemption for a child.   A court order cannot supersede the Federal tax law.

Rev. date: 12/13/2013

My son was born on December 31. 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 claim him as a dependent and take the full exemption.

Rev. date: 12/13/2013

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 her social security number?

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: 12/13/2013

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: 12/13/2013

If I claim my daughter as a dependent because she is a full-time college student, 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.