You recently addressed a question from someone who claims their 25-year-old daughter who lives with her as her tax dependent. My 25-year-old son lives with me. He earned less than $12,000 in 2017. Our accountant told us we can’t claim him as a dependent on our tax return. What are the rules?

For tax purposes, a dependent child 1) is your biological, adoptive or foster child, sibling, niece, nephew, or grandchild; 2) is under age 19; or under age 24 and a full-time student for at least five months of the year; or permanently disabled, regardless of age; 3) lived with you for more than half the year; 4) and provided no more than half his own support for the year.

Clearly, a 25-year-old who’s neither a full-time student nor disabled doesn’t qualify. However, he or she might still be eligible to be claimed as a ‘qualifying relative,’ says Ed Slott, a Rockville Centre tax accountant.

A qualifying relative can be your child, grandchild, great-grandchild, stepchild, adopted child, foster child, sibling, half-sibling, stepsibling, parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, son or daughter-in-law, brother or sister-in-law, or father or mother-in-law. This person doesn’t have to live with you, but must meet all these requirements: 1) Nobody can claim him as a qualifying child; 2) he doesn’t file a joint return with someone else; 3) you provided more than half his total 2017 support; 4) he’s a citizen or resident alien of the United States, Canada, or Mexico; and 5) his 2017 taxable income can’t exceed $4,050.


You can’t claim your child as a dependent on your tax return if he earned more than $4,050 last year, and is over age 24 and not permanently disabled, even if you provide more than half his support.


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