Five Rules for Understanding Dependents and Exemptions

  1. Generally, an exemption is allowed for each dependent, which is defined as a qualifying child or qualifying relative.  In order to claim a dependent, you must list the Social Security number of each dependent claimed on your tax return.
  2. Those claimed as dependents may still be required to file their own returns.  This depends on a number of factors, including marital status, income, and Earned Income Tax Credit payments one may have received.
  3. Those claimed as dependent by another taxpayer may not claim a personal exemption on their own tax return.
  4. Spouses do not qualify as dependents.  For those filing joint returns, a personal exemption may be claimed for yourself and one for your spouse.  For those filing separate returns, an exemption may be claimed for the taxpayer’s spouse only if the spouse had no gross income, did not file a joint return, and was not claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.
  5. With exceptions for certain adopted children, a dependent must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. resident alien, a U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for some portion of the year.  For additional information on who can be claimed as a dependent, see IRS Publication 501 (available at

Disclaimer: Hone Maxwell LLP articles and blogs are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts, facts specific to your situation or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information herein.

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