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Frequently Asked Tax Questions

Filing Requirements, Status, Dependents, Exemptions - Dependents & Exemptions

  1. I am adopting a child and don't 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 has no income and we provided all of her support during the year. 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 daughter was born on December 31. Can I claim her as a dependent and also claim the child tax credit?
  10. My daughter was born at the end of the year. We're 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: 11/09/2016

I am adopting a child and don't 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'll 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 don't 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). Please note that you can't claim the child tax credit on either your original or an amended return if your child doesn't have an SSN, ATIN, or ITIN by the due date of your return (including extensions), even if your child later gets one of those numbers.  

Rev. date: 11/09/2016

My spouse and I have provided a home for my niece and her son for the past seven months. She has no income and we provided all of her support during the year. Can I claim both her and her son as dependents?

You may be eligible to claim a dependency exemption for both your niece and her son on your return. In order to claim someone as your dependent, the person must meet certain tests as shown below.
The dependent must be:
  1. Either your qualifying child or qualifying relative
  2. A U.S. citizen, U.S. resident, U.S. national or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  3. Unmarried or if married, not filing a joint return or only filing a joint return to claim a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid.
Additionally, you must meet the dependent taxpayer test. If you can be claimed by anyone else as a dependent, then you can't claim anyone else as a dependent.
The requirements for qualifying child and qualifying relative as well as additional information regarding these tests can be found in Publication 501, Exemption, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.
Additional Information
Who Can I Claim as a Dependent

Rev. date: 11/09/2016

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

To claim your child as your dependent, your child must meet either the qualifying child test or the qualifying relative test:
In addition to meeting the qualifying child or qualifying relative test, your child must also meet all of the other tests for claiming a dependent:
  1. Dependent taxpayer test
  2. Citizen or resident test, and
  3. Joint return test

Rev. date: 11/09/2016

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

No, a dependency exemption for a child  may not be split between two or more taxpayers. Generally, the child is the qualifying child of the custodial parent. Generally, the custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time during the year.
However, the child will be treated as the qualifying child of the noncustodial parent if the special rule for children of divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart) applies. See Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals, for more information. This rule requires in part, that both of the following conditions are met:
If the custodial parent releases a claim to exemption for a child, the noncustodial parent may claim the child as a dependent and as a qualifying child for the child tax credit. However, generally, the noncustodial parent  may not claim head of household filing status or the earned income credit, and the noncustodial parent may not claim the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the exclusion for dependent care benefits, or the health coverage tax credit.

Rev. date: 11/09/2016

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: 11/09/2016

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?

You can claim your children as dependents. Although your husband provided the support, the IRS will consider you the custodial parent since they lived with you for the greater part of the year. Generally, a child is the qualifying child of the custodial parent.
You may choose to release the exemption for a child by completing Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or by signing a substantially similar statement that your husband will need to attach to his return.
Note: If you release a claim to exemption for a child, you 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 (or parents who live apart).
Additional Information
Who Can I Claim as a Dependent

Rev. date: 11/09/2016

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 recipient.
However, the payer of child support may be able to claim the child as a dependent:

Rev. date: 11/09/2016

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

Federal tax law is what determines who may claim a dependency exemption for a child. Even if a state court order allocates a child’s dependency exemption to a noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent must comply with the federal tax law to claim the exemption. The noncustodial parent must attach to his or her return a copy of the release of claim to exemption by the custodial parent, either on a Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a substantially similar document.
Refer to 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: 11/09/2016

My daughter was born on December 31. Can I claim her as a dependent and also claim the child tax credit?

Yes, if your child was born alive during the year and the tests for claiming your child as a dependent are met, you may claim her as a dependent. You may also be entitled to claim the:
Refer to Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information, for more information.

Rev. date: 11/09/2016

My daughter was born at the end of the year. We're 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 don't provide her social security number (SSN) 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 SSN, you could then amend your return on Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Generally, you have three years after the date you filed your original return or 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, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. This option would give you an additional six months to file your return; by then you should have your daughter's SSN. However, any tax owed will be due at the filing due date without the extension.
In addition to the dependency exemption for your newborn, you may also be claiming the earned income credit (EIC) and/or child tax credit (CTC). Please note that you can't count your child as a qualifying child in figuring the EIC on either your original or an amended return if your child doesn't have an SSN by the due date of your return (including extensions), even if your child later gets an SSN. You also can't claim the CTC or the additional child tax credit on either your original or an amended return, if your child doesn’t have an SSN, ITIN, or ATIN by the due date of your return (including extensions), even if your child later gets one of those numbers. For more information about taxpayer identification number requirements, see the Instructions for Form 1040 or the Instructions for Form 1040A.

Rev. date: 11/09/2016

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

You can't claim a dependency exemption for a stillborn child.

Rev. date: 11/09/2016

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 can't 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.