Updated: May 24, 2024

Q&A: Taxes - Who Can I Claim As My Dependent?

Not every taxpayer has a clear-cut guide for claiming others as their dependents.
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Not every taxpayer has a clear-cut guide for claiming others as their dependents.

The Internal Service Revenue (IRS) dictates a series of tests that must be passed to determine whether a person can be considered a qualifying relative.

The process for filing tax returns is difficult to maneuver for many taxpayers.

In the MyBankTracker Community, a common tax question was posted that puzzles most tax return filers.

IRS Rules for Qualifying Relatives

MyBankTracker reader Michael asked “Can I claim my girlfriend as a dependent?”:

“My girlfriend and I moved in together last summer. I work but she began graduate school in the fall. Can I file her as a dependent on my tax return?”

Michael’s girlfriend may be claimed as a dependent. According to the IRS, a person must pass four tests to be considered as a qualifying relative:

1. Not a Qualifying Child Test

A child is not a qualifying relative if the child is already claimed as your qualifying child or a dependent of another taxpayer.

Michael’s girlfriend cannot be claimed as a qualifying child or dependent of someone else.

2. Member of Household or Relationship Test

Michael’s girlfriend has to have lived with him for the entire year (12 months). She is considered a member of the household even if she did not live with him due to educational obligations.

3. Gross Income Test

Gross income for Michael’s girlfriend must not exceed $3,650 for the year. Gross income is defined as all taxable income in the form of money, property, and services. Income from rental property, unemployment compensation, and some scholarships and grants are included in gross income. Income such as those tax-exempt investments or certain social security benefits are not included.

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4. Support Test

Michael must have provided more than half of his girlfriend’s total support during the calendar year. Total support includes amounts spent to provide food, lodging, clothing, education, medical and dental care, recreation, transportation, and similar necessities. If Michael’s girlfriend took out loans to attend graduate school, the loan amounts are considered in the total support calculation.

If Michael's girlfriend passes all the tests, she can be claimed as a qualifying relative on his tax return. A more complex situation may require the consult of a tax professional to determine whether or not someone can be considered a qualifying relative.

For more details on the IRS rules for qualifying relatives, skip to page 15 of IRS Publication 501 Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.