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Frequently Asked Tax Questions

Filing Requirements, Status, Dependents - Dependents

  1. I am adopting a child and don't yet have a social security number for the child. How can I claim the child as my dependent?
  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. We’re the divorced or legally separated parents of one child. May each parent claim the child as a dependent for a different part of the tax year?
  5. My spouse and I are filing as married filing separately. We both contributed to the support of our son. Can we both claim him as a dependent 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 may claim the children as dependents on the tax return?
  7. Are child support payments deductible by the payer and may the payer claim the child as a dependent?
  8. Can a state court determine who may claim a child as a dependent?
  9. My daughter was born on December 31. May 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. May I file my return now and provide her social security number later?
  11. My child was stillborn. May I claim my child as a dependent on my tax return?

Rev. date: 03/19/2019

I am adopting a child and don't yet have a social security number for the child. How can I claim the child as my dependent?

As a prospective adoptive parent in the process of adopting a U.S. citizen or resident, you'll need a taxpayer identifying number (TIN) for the child who is being adopted to claim the child as a dependent. 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 for tax years 2018 through 2025, you can't claim the child tax credit on either your original or an amended return if your child doesn't have an SSN valid for employment by the due date of your return (including extensions). If your child has an ATIN or an ITIN, your child may qualify you for the credit for other dependents.

Rev. date: 03/19/2019

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 both your niece and her son as dependents 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 as a dependent by another person, 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, Dependents, Standard Deduction and Filing Information.
Additional Information
Whom May I Claim as a Dependent?

Rev. date: 03/19/2019

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 to be your dependent:
  1. Dependent taxpayer test
  2. Citizen or resident test, and
  3. Joint return test

Rev. date: 03/19/2019

We’re the divorced or legally separated parents of one child. May each parent claim the child as a dependent for a different part of the tax year?

No, an individual may be a dependent of only one taxpayer for a tax year. You can claim a child as a dependent if he or she is your qualifying child. 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 or credit for other dependents. 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: 03/19/2019

My spouse and I are filing as married filing separately. We both contributed to the support of our son. Can we both claim him as a dependent on our separate returns?

No, a child may only be claimed as a dependent on one return in a tax year.
For more information on which of you can claim your son, refer to Qualifying Child of More Than One Person.

Rev. date: 03/19/2019

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 may claim the children as dependents on the tax return?

Although your husband provided the support, you are considered the custodial parent since your children lived with you for the greater part of the year. You can claim a child as a dependent if he or she is your qualifying child. Generally, a child is the qualifying child of the custodial parent and the custodial parent may claim the child as a dependent.
If certain conditions are met, you may choose to release a claim to 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. If you release a claim to exemption for a child, your husband must attach a copy of the release to his return to claim the child as a dependent.
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, Dependents, 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
Whom May I Claim as a Dependent?

Rev. date: 03/19/2019

Are child support payments deductible by the payer and may the payer claim the child as a dependent?

No and maybe. Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable income to the recipient, and the payer of child support may be able to claim the child as a dependent:

Rev. date: 03/19/2019

Can a state court determine who may claim a child as a dependent?

Federal tax law is what determines who may claim a child as a dependent. Even if a state court order allocates the ability to claim the child to a noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent must comply with the federal tax law to claim the dependent. The noncustodial parent must attach to his or her return a copy of the release of claim to exemption by the custodial parent, either 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: 03/19/2019

My daughter was born on December 31. May 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:

Rev. date: 03/19/2019

My daughter was born at the end of the year. We're still waiting for a social security number. May 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 not allow you to claim her as a dependent.
You have two options:
  1. You may file your income tax return without claiming your daughter as a dependent. After you receive her SSN, you may 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 allowance for your newborn, you may be eligible to claim the earned income credit (EIC) and/or the child tax credit/additional child tax credit (CTC/ACTC). Please note that you can't count your child as a qualifying child in figuring the EIC or claim the CTC/ACTC 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. For more information about taxpayer identification number requirements, see the Instructions for Form 1040.

Rev. date: 03/19/2019

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

In order to claim a newborn child as a dependent, state or local law must treat the child as having been born alive, and there must be proof of a live birth shown by an official document like a birth certificate. Due to these requirements, you may not claim a stillborn child as a dependent.