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Claiming an adult dependent


Dear Tax Talk,
A co-worker and I disagree on whether or not I can claim my 22-year-old son as a dependent according to the Internal Revenue Service's gross income test. He passed the other four dependent tests.

My co-worker told me the gross income test for dependents implies that my son must be a full-time college student; therefore, I cannot claim him as a dependent. My interpretation of the gross income test for dependents is that if my son's gross income at the end of the year is less than $3,050, I can claim him as a dependent regardless of whether or not he is a college student. Please advise me of the correct answer.

Thank you very much in advance for your help. -- Linda

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Dear Linda,
The great mystery of tax law is always that two intelligent people can read the same thing and come up with different answers. The five tax-dependency tests are simply stated in the form 1040 instructions:

1. The relationship test
The person must be your relative or have lived in your house as a family member for the entire tax year. If the person is not your relative, the relationship must not violate local law, whatever that means.

2. The joint return test
If the person is married, he or she cannot file a joint return other than only to claim a refund of taxes withheld.

3. Citizen or resident test
The person must be a citizen or resident alien and especially have a Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification Number.

4. Gross income test
The person's gross income must be less than $3,050 (in 2003). But you can always claim your child regardless of income if either the child is under age 19, or the child is under age 24 and a student.

5. Support test
You must have provided over half of the person's total support in 2003.

More detailed discussion of the five tests, such as what is counted as support, who is a student, etc., can be found in IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information. So your interpretation is right. You can claim your child or any one else that meets the five tests so long as his or her income is less than $3,050.

-- Posted: Mar. 4, 2004




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