Question

If my child attends college full-time and earns income, can I claim my child as a dependent?

Answer

You can usually claim your children as dependents no matter how much income they have or where it comes from. However, to claim a child as a dependent, the child:

  • Must be under age 19, or under age 24 and a full-time student
  • Must 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.)
  • Must meet the income test requirement for dependent support by not providing more than half of his or her own support. Here are some guidelines:
    • This income test considers who paid expenses like:
      • Food
      • Lodging
      • Medical
      • Education
    • College student loans are considered to be provided by the person responsible for the loan repayment. Nontaxable scholarships aren’t considered in this test.
    • 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.
  • Must not file a joint return unless he or she is only filing to claim a refund of estimated taxes or income taxes withheld. Also, there would be no tax liability for either the child or the child’s spouse if filing separate returns.

If your child doesn’t live with you more than half the year, he or she 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 would be relevant.

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