Question

Can I Claim a College Student as a Dependent?

Answer

You can usually claim your college student children as dependents. However, to claim a college student as a dependent, the child must:

  • Be under age 19, or under age 24 and a full-time student for at least five months of the year
  • Be younger than you, unless they are permanently and totally disabled
  • Have lived with you for more than half the year. There are exceptions for temporary absences, such as when your child is away at school.
  • Not provide more than half of their own support. Here are some guidelines:
    • Support includes expenses like:
      •  Food
      • Clothing
      • Lodging
      • Medical and dental (out of pocket)
      • Education
    • College student loans count as support by the person responsible for the loan repayment. Nontaxable scholarships don’t count here. 
    • As long as your child didn’t pay more than half of these expenses, you meet the support test. It’s not necessary that you paid these types of expenses, as long as your children didn’t.
  • Not file a joint return unless:
    • They’re only filing to claim a refund of taxes
    • There would be no tax liability for either the child or the child’s spouse if they were filing separate returns
  • Be one of the these:
    • U.S. citizen
    • U.S. resident
    • U.S. national
    • Resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Be your:
    • Child
    • Stepchild
    • Foster child placed by a licensed agency
    • Sibling, step-sibling, or a descendent of any of these, like a niece or nephew

If your child meets all these criteria, you can claim your college student as a dependent.

Can I Claim My College Student as a Dependent if They Don’t Meet the Above Tests?

If your child doesn’t meet these tests, your college student can still be your dependent if:

  • You provide more than half of the child’s support.
  • The child’s gross income (income that’s not exempt from tax) is less than $4,200.

If your child doesn’t live with you more than half the year, they might still qualify as a dependent college student under a different rule. In this case, the amount of your child’s income and the amount of support you provide is important.

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