Anyone who pays taxes and is not claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s return is eligible to receive a personal deduction simply because they are a taxpayer. This deduction is known as a personal exemption, and the amount is a set dollar amount for the entire year. In 2016, the exemption amount was $4,050, and it is adusted for inflation.
This personal exemption is yours specifically because you pay taxes, and there are no other conditions to claiming it. The law allows you to deduct an exemption for yourself. Both you and your spouse are entitled to a personal deduction. This means that couples who file jointly will claim two personal exemptions. Married couples who file separately can claim the deduction for their spouse only if their spouse has no income and is not considered a dependent of any other taxpayer.
If you can be claimed as a dependent on a tax return for someone else, you will not be entitled to the personal exemption. A common instance in which this occurs is when a child is claimed as a dependent on a parent’s return. That child would not be eligible to claim a personal exemption on their own tax return.