You can reduce you total taxes owed by claiming a child as a dependent on your income tax return. But not all children qualify and age is a factor. In some cases, you can claim a child under the age of 19. In other instances, you can claim a child under the age of 24. And in still other scenarios, a child might not qualify at all – regardless of their age.
Read on for more details about under what circumstance you can claim a child as a dependent on your income taxes.
Why Would I Claim a Dependency Exemption for My Child?
The IRS grants tax breaks to certain individuals who are responsible for supporting a child. Not all children will be “qualified” as dependents under IRS guidelines so it’s important that you understand what limitations are in place, and ensure that you can provide proof that you are supporting the child you are claiming as a dependent.
Only one person per household can claim a child as a dependent. So, if you and your spouse are filing tax returns separately, only one of you would be able to claim a son or daughter as a dependent on your tax return.
If the IRS finds that you are claiming the same dependent, you could raise some red flags and trigger an audit.
Is My Child Qualified?
According to the IRS, qualifying children must meet the following criteria:
- Relationship – must be your child, a step child, an adopted child, a foster child, a brother or sister, or a descendant of one of these individuals
- Residence – the child must have lived with you for more than half the year
- Age – the child must be under 19 years of age, or under 24 years of age and a full-time student for at least five months of the year, or of any age and totally or permanently disabled (thus needing your care)
- Support – the child could not have been able to provide more than half of his or her own support at any time during the year
IRS Guidelines on Age Limits for Dependents
As mentioned above, age is a factor in determining whether your child is a qualifying child for your tax return. If your child is a student or is disabled, then you can claim him or her as a dependent as long as your child is under age 24. Otherwise, the child must be under 19 years old.
However, there are other tests that allow you to claim a dependency exemption for your child. These are as follows:
- Qualifying child or qualifying relative test
- Dependent taxpayer test
- Citizenship or resident test
- Joint return test
The child you claim must also be living with you for more than half the year because the IRS needs proof that you are truly supporting the child. Separated parents should gather as many documents as possible to show proof that the child is living with them for at least half the year. It’s also a good idea to get a written agreement from the ex-spouse to determine who is claiming which children for each year.