There are five tests that must be met for a child to be your qualifying child. All five of these tests must be true for a child to qualify. The tests are: Relationship, Age, Residency, Support, and a special test for qualifying child of more than one person.
Relationship Test. To meet this test, a child must be: Your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, adopted child or a descendant (for example, your grandchild) , or your brother or sister (including half- or step-) and their descendants (niece or nephew).
Age Test: To meet this test, a child must be Under age 19 at the end of the year, A full-time student under age 24 at the end of the year, or Permanently and totally disabled at any time during the year, regardless of age.
Residency Test: The dependent lived with the taxpayer for more than than half of the year as a member of the taxpayer's household, except for temporary absences; attending school, taking vacations, business trips, military service, and illness.
Qualifying Child - Support and Competing Claims
Support Test: The child cannot have provided more than half of his / her support for the year. This test is different from the support test to be a qualifying relative.
If your qualifying child is not a qualifying child for anyone else, the following test does not apply to you. It is enough that first four are true. However, if more than one person is able to or wants to claim a child then this test needs to be passed.
The Competing Claims Test is complex. See IRS Pub 501 for more information. For example, applying this special test to divorced or separated parents is only one of numerous issues involved. If a child is treated as the qualifying child of the noncustodial parent under the rules for children of divorced or separated parents only the noncustodial parent can claim an exemption and the child tax credit for the child. However, the noncustodial parent cannot claim the child as a qualifying child for head of household filing status, the earned income credit, etc.
Qualifying Relative - Not a qualifying child
There are four tests that must be met for a person to be your qualifying relative: Not a qualifying child (QC) test, Member of household or relationship test, Gross income test, and Support test.
Not a QC: A child is not your qualifying relative if the child is your qualifying child or the qualifying child of any other taxpayer. A child is not the qualifying child of any other taxpayer and so may qualify as your qualifying relative if the child's parent (or other person for whom the child is defined as a qualifying child) is not required to file an income tax return. A child who lives in Canada or Mexico may be your qualifying relative, and you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. You cannot claim as a dependent a child who lives in a foreign country other than Canada or Mexico, unless the child is a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, or U.S. national for some part of the year.
Qualifying Relative - Relationship, Gross Income, Support
Relationship Test: To meet this test, a person must either Live with you all year as a member of your household, or Be related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you (see IRS Pub 501).
Gross Income Test: To meet this test, a person's gross income for the year must be less than $3,500.
Total Support: Again, a complicated test. You must figure out whether you provided more than half of a person's support. You must first determine the total support provided for that person. Total support includes amounts spent to provide food, lodging, clothing, education, medical, dental. Then determine the portion of that support you paid which must be more than half to pass this test. If no one individual pays more than 50% of an individual's support then Form 2120, Multiple Support Declaration, can be used in agreement between all support providers to decide which one will claim the exemption.
You have a dependant child or relative, what next?
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. You can claim an exemption for a qualifying child or qualifying relative only if three additional tests are met.
Dependent Taxpayer Test: If you could be claimed as a dependent by another person you cannot claim anyone else as a dependent even if you have a qualifying child or qualifying relative.
Joint Return Test: You generally cannot claim a married person as a dependent if he or she files a joint return.
Residency Test: You cannot claim a person as a dependent unless that person is a U.S. citizen, resident alien, national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico, for some part of the year (with exception for certain adopted children).
When someone is both a qualifying child / relative and passes the other three tests then you have a dependant you can claim on your IRS return.
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