Generally, to claim a dependent you supply the IRS with the dependent’s Social Security number, which is used to authenticate your relationship with the person and that some basic rules are met.
The process becomes more difficult if someone else tries to claim the same person as their dependent. The IRS will process the return of the person who files first, and assume legitimacy. If the other person files before you, they will receive the benefit of the dependent. When you file your return next, the IRS will reject it.
If you find yourself in the scenario of having your e-return rejected because of another taxpayer claiming your dependent, you’ll have to file a paper return. You’re able to prepare your return using software online, but you’ll have to physically print the return, sign it and send it through the mail to the IRS.
Your return should include a cover letter, which explains the reason why your return was rejected and supplies documentation to prove you have the right to claim the dependent. This proof can be in the form of medical records, school records, etc.
The IRS will review each return that claims the dependent and make a decision on the taxpayer who is legitimately eligible to claim the dependent. This decision is based on the tax law.
Before anything, make sure you are entitled to claim the person. Dependents come in two types – qualifying children and qualifying relatives- each with their own set of requirements.
The requirements for qualifying child follow:
- The dependent must be your biological or adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half sibling, step-sibling, or a descendant of one of these
- The child must be less than 19 years old (24 years old if a full-time student), with no age limitation for those permanently and totally disabled
- The child must be a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
- The dependent can’t be married, or can’t file a joint return if married
- You must have housed the dependent for at least half of the year
- The dependent can’t have provided over half of their own support
The requirements for qualifying relative follow:
- The relative must be a member of your household for the full year, or be related to you as a child, parent, sibling, stepparent, stepchild, step-sibling, half sibling, grandparent, grandchild, child-in-law, parent-in-law, sibling-in-law, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew
- Relative must remain a citizen or resident of the U.S., or be a resident of Canada or Mexico.
- Either not be married or not file a joint return with their spouse
- Not be a qualifying child for yourself or another taxpayer
- Relative must have gross income under $4,050
- You must have provided more than 50% of their total support for the year
Who Claimed My Dependent?
The IRS is unable to provide you with information regarding who else claimed the same dependent as you. There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one is they have to respect the privacy of all parties, as they aren’t completely sure who made the right claim, and don’t want to violate any information from a legitimate claim to a dependent.
If you are sure you are accurately claiming the person as your dependent, you should try to provide the IRS with proof that meets each requirement of the type of dependent you wish to claim.
We Both Meet the Requirement!
If it turns out that both you and the other taxpayer meet the criteria to claim the dependent, the tax benefit is usually given to the person with whom the dependent lived with the most throughout the year. If the year was split equally, and the dependent spent the same amount of time in both households, the benefit is awarded to the taxpayer with the higher adjusted gross income.