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Does a dependent have to live with you to qualify as a tax dependent?

5 min read

5 min read

Tax information surrounding dependents can trip you up — many guidelines exist, and the nuances can be complex. In fact, we often get questions about dependents like, “Can I claim a dependent that doesn’t live with me?” The answer here is “yes” (and we’ll dig into those details below) but understanding all the particulars around who qualifies as a dependent is worth a deeper dive.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has specific rules for claiming tax dependents, including a residency test for any qualifying dependent relative or qualifying child. Take a minute to learn the basics — we’re here to walk them through so you can understand income tax guidelines a bit better!

Claiming a dependent on taxes: Which relationships qualifies?

As mentioned above, the person doesn’t have to live with you to qualify as a tax dependent on your income taxes. To be a dependent, the person will fall into one of two categories:

  • As a Qualifying Child. This could be your child as follows:
    • Child, stepchild, or adopted child,
    • Eligible foster child,
    • Sibling, half sibling, step sibling,
    • A descendent of the above individuals.
  • As a Qualifying Relative. This could be your relation as follows (provided any relations established by marriage aren’t ended by death or divorce):
    • Child, stepchild or adopted child, eligible foster child, or descendant of any of these.
    • Sibling, half sibling, stepsibling, grandparent, or other direct ancestor.

A Qualifying Relative can’t be a foster parent. They also can’t be your Qualifying Child (QC) or the QC of another taxpayer. 

Claiming a dependent on taxes: Residency nuances

As you can see above, when it comes to income taxes, the IRS recognizes a host of blended family situations. But what about international family situations? Can you claim a non-resident as a dependent on your taxes? In short, the answer is “no.” (The person you claim must be a U.S. citizen or resident, a U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.)

Knowing that dependent-related tax benefits only apply if the person qualifies as your dependent, it’s a good idea to double-check the details.

You can claim a person who lives outside the U.S. for part of the year on your taxes if they meet certain criteria. For example, if you have a 16-year-old child who is a U.S. citizen and lives with you most of the year, but travels and lives for three months in India, you can claim them.

On the other hand, you couldn’t claim your grandmother who lives in India full-time and isn’t a U.S. citizen or resident, even though you provide financial support for her.

Does a dependent have to live with you?

Let’s cover the details around the question we posed at the start of this post. Specifically, whether a dependent has to live with you to claim them. You can claim certain relatives if they fall in the list below.

A person related to you in any of the following ways doesn’t have to live with you all year as a member of your household to meet this test.

  • Your child, stepchild, or foster child, or a descendant of any of them (for example, your grandchild). (A legally adopted child is considered your child.)
  • Your brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, or stepsister.
  • Your father, mother, grandparent, or other direct ancestor, but not foster parent.
  • Your stepfather or stepmother.
  • A son or daughter of your brother or sister.
  • A son or daughter of your half brother or half sister.
  • A brother or sister of your father or mother.
  • Your son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law.

Any of these relationships established by marriage remain even if the marriage ends by death or divorce.

Who qualifies as a dependent? Other considerations

There are additional rules for a person to qualify as your dependent, either as a Qualifying Child or Qualifying Relative, for income tax purposes. For someone to be considered as a dependent this tax year, all of these must be true:

  • The person must not file a joint tax return unless they are only filing to claim a refund of estimated taxes or income tax Also, there would be no tax liability for either the person or the person’s spouse if filing separate tax returns.
  • The person can’t be claimed as a dependent of any other taxpayer.
  • The person must be a:
    • U.S. citizen
    • U.S. national
    • Resident of the United States, Canada, or Mexico

To be a Qualifying Child, the child:

  • Must live with the taxpayer for more than half the year.
  • Can’t provide more than half of their own total support for the year.
  • Must be younger than you, the taxpayer (or spouse if Married Filing Jointly) and under age 19 at the end of the year, or under age 24 at the end of the year and a full-time student, or they can be any age if totally and permanently disabled.

There are no gross income requirement to be a Qualifying Child.

To be a Qualifying Relative,

  • The relative must meet the gross income test. The person must have gross income less than $4,700 for the 2023 tax year ($5,050 for 2024),
  • You must provide more than half of person’s total support for the year, and
  • The relative must meet the other requirements to be a qualifying relative.

There are no age requirements to be a Qualifying Relative.

Potential tax benefits for dependents

Claiming a Qualifying Child or Qualifying Relative means you may be able to claim specific tax benefits. Follow along as we outline each of them.

Qualifying Child:

You may be eligible to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit, Head of Household filing status, or Other Dependent Credit, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Qualifying Relative:

You may be eligible to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit, Head of Household filing status, and Other Dependent Credit.

Navigating IRS dependent rules

Looking for more help with navigating IRS tax dependent rules. Whether you choose to file online or want to file your taxes with a tax professional, we’re here for you. You can count on H&R Block to help you navigate the rules of claiming a tax dependent family member on your taxes and even spot other tax deductions or tax credits that may be available to you!

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