Can I claim myself as a dependent?
Editor’s Note: Have you ever questioned: “Can I claim myself as a dependent for tax purposes?” You may feel like an independent adult, but in the eyes of the IRS you could still be your parent’s dependent. And whether or not they claim you can have an effect on your tax return. Learn what a dependent is and if you can claim yourself as one here.
What is a dependent?
A dependent is often thought of as someone that is financially taken care of by a parent or guardian. In they eyes of the IRS, you are a dependent if you can be a qualifying child or a qualifying relative.
Through 2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) suspends the personal and dependent exemptions by reducing the exemption amount to zero. That means taxpayers can no longer take a tax deduction for dependent exemptions. However, if someone does qualify to claim you as dependent, they might qualify for a different tax benefit such as a child tax credit or credit for other dependents.
“Can I claim myself as a dependent?”
If you don’t meet the qualifications to be a qualifying child or qualifying relative, you may be able to claim yourself as a dependent. Think of a personal exemption as “claiming yourself.” You are not your own dependent, but you can potentially claim a personal exemption. This amount is zero in tax years 2018 through 2025. However, you must determine if you are eligible to take the personal exemption.
“Can my parents claim me as a dependent?”
While you might wonder: “Can an 18 year old claim themselves on taxes?” – the answer depends on the situation. In fact, in some cases your parents can still claim you as a dependent, even if you aren’t living under their roof.
Here are the criteria for being claimed as a qualifying child dependent:
- You are the child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half-sibling, stepsibling or descendant of another taxpayer. (This generally would be your parent or guardian.)
- You lived with the taxpayer for more than half a year (there are some exceptions)
- You are under 19 at the end of the tax year or are under 24 and a full-time student (at least five months) or are permanently and totally disabled
- You did not provide more than one-half of your own support in the tax year
- You are a U.S. citizen, resident, or national, or resident of Canada or Mexico, and
- You are unmarried, file using married filing separately, or file jointly with a spouse but the return is filed only to claim a full refund of all taxes paid and neither spouse would have a tax liability if separate returns were filed.
A lot of people wonder if you can claim adults as dependents. You may be a qualifying relative dependent if you:
- Don’t qualify as a qualifying child,
- Are a child (includes biological and adopted children, plus descendants of either), foster child, stepchild, sibling, step-sibling, or half sibling,
- Are a parent, grandparent, father- or mother-in-law, stepparent, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, brother- or sister-in-law, or son- or daughter-in-law, or
- Lived with the taxpayer the entire year.
Additionally, all these criteria must be met:
- The person who might claim you provided more than half of your total financial support.
- You earned less than $4,200.
- You are a U.S. citizen, resident, or national, or resident of Canada or Mexico.
- You are unmarried, file using the married filing separately filing status, or file a joint tax return with a spouse but the return is filed only to claim a full refund of all taxes paid and neither spouse would have a tax liability if separate returns were filed.
If you meet all of these criteria as a qualifying child or qualifying relative, you are a dependent. You can’t claim the personal exemption, even if the person who you are the dependent of doesn’t file with you listed as a dependent.
Note: The personal exemption amount is zero in tax years 2018 through 2025. However, there are other items on your tax return that are tied to whether you are eligible to take a personal exemption.
“If my parents claim me do I lose money?”
If your parents claim you as a dependent on their taxes, they claim certain tax benefits associated with having a dependent. As a dependent, you do not qualify to claim those tax benefits. However, you may still need to file a tax return if you have income. Rest assured, you will have many other years to file your own tax return.
“Should my parents claim me as a dependent?”
It depends… If your parent’s income is too high for them to benefit from education credits, it may be advantageous for them to not claim you on their tax return. In that situation, if they do not claim you as a dependent, you can claim the education credits on your return for your education expenses even though you are their dependent. The value of these education credits that you could then claim may be a greater value to you than the dependency exemption is to your parents.
Most importantly: make sure to discuss your dependency status with your parents before filing your tax return so everyone is on the same page.
It’s also advisable to speak with a qualified tax professional to determine which course is best for both you and your parents.
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