Question

Can I claim a parent as a dependent?

Answer

There might be times when you can claim a parent or another relative as a dependent. However, you and your parent or relative must meet all of these conditions:

  • You can’t be someone else’s dependent, even if they don’t claim you as a dependent.
  • Your parent or relative can’t file a joint return unless they’re only filing to get a refund.
  • Your parent or relative must be one of these:
    • U.S. citizen
    • U.S. resident
    • U.S. national
    • Resident of Canada or Mexico
  • The potential dependent must be one of these:
    • Your parent, ancestor (ex: grandparent, great-grandparent), or sibling of either of them
    • Stepsibling, stepparent, parent-in-law, son- or daughter-in-law, or brother- or sister-in-law
    • Any person that lived with you for the entire year as a member of your household
  • They must have gross income (taxable income) of less than $4,200 for the year. This includes the taxable portion of these:
    • Social Security
    • Pensions
    • Scholarships
    • Unemployment
    • All other taxable income

You must have provided over half of your parent’s support for the year to claim them as a dependent under IRS rules. This includes all money spent supporting them, including food stamps, housing assistance, and other government assistance.

Can I Claim My Parents as Dependents and File as Head of Household?

Let’s say, for example, that your mother lives with you and you pay all her expenses, but she receives some income from Social Security. In certain situations, you can claim your parent as a dependent and file as head of household (HOH).  

To claim head of household (HOH) filing status, these must apply:

  • You’re unmarried on the last day of the year.
  • You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
  • A qualifying person, which includes a parent, lived with you for more than half the year. If your qualifying person is your mother, she doesn’t have to live with you for more than half the year. However, you must be able to claim your mother as a dependent.

Use Publication 17: Worksheet for Determining Support, Worksheet 3-1 to help you. If you use the worksheet, keep it with your copy of your return for your records.

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