Question

My child married and moved out of my home in 2020. She and her husband filed their taxes as married filing jointly. Can I still claim an exemption for her?

Answer

Maybe.

You can claim a dependent exemption for your married child only if she qualifies as your dependent. To claim your child as a dependent, she must be either your:

  • Qualifying child
  • Qualifying relative

To meet the qualifying-child test, she must:

  • Be under age 19 on Dec. 31, 2020, or under age 24 and a full-time student
  • Have lived with you for more than half the year
  • Not have provided more than half of her own support
  • Not be filing a joint return unless they’re only filing to claim a refund of taxes withheld. Also, there would be no tax liability for either she or her spouse if filing separate returns.

Since she filed a joint return with her husband, you must find out if they filed only to claim a refund of all taxes withheld. If not, she doesn’t qualify as your dependent under this test.

To meet the qualifying relative test:

  • Her gross income must be less than $4,300 for the year.
  • You must have provided more than half of her support for the year.
  • She must not file a joint return unless she’s only filing to claim a refund of taxes withheld. Also, there would be no tax liability for either her or her spouse if filing separate returns.

If she doesn’t meet either test, she’s not your dependent, and you can’t claim an exemption for her on your return. Instead, she will claim her own personal exemption on her joint return.

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