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George Saenz, the Bankrate.com Tax Talk columnist Claiming significant other as a dependent

Dear Tax Talk,
My boyfriend and I have lived together for several years and have a 2-year-old child together. I have had no income this year and he has paid all food, lodging and medical bills. Although we are not married, can he claim me as a dependent? Also, if he does, will there be any problem with back taxes I owe? Will they take it from him if he claims me?
-- Roccal

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Dear Roccal,
If he claims someone as a dependent, a filer is not obligated to pay the dependent's unpaid taxes. You can only get caught up in someone's back taxes if you're married and file a joint tax return. Hopefully this doesn't dissuade him from taking that walk to the altar with you. Even if you were married, he could still disown your back taxes through injured spouse relief.

You can claim your significant other, or pretty much anyone else, as your dependent provided you meet certain tests.

In your case, you have to be a member of your boyfriend's household for the entire year. Since you lived with him for several years, you have met this test. In addition, your relationship cannot violate local law, which even though we live in the 21st century can still be left to the prudence of others. Assuming you're not living in the dark ages of our country, you're probably fine in the eyes of Uncle Sam.

Next, your boyfriend has to have provided more than half of your support and in 2006 your gross income should have been less than $3,300. Since you didn't earn anything during the year and he paid for all your food, housing and medical bills, he would meet the support test. Accordingly, he can rest assured claiming you as a dependent on his 2006 income tax return.

In the space provided for relationship he could describe you as other or none. Hopefully this pushes him to finally walk down the aisle with you.

To ask a question on Tax Talk, go to the "Ask the Experts" page and select "taxes" as the topic.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Feb. 9, 2007
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