Dear Tax Talk,
My son turned 24 last year. Since he is a full-time college student, can I claim him as a dependent? He had income from a part-time job, but I was his main source of income. Is he a qualifying child?
— Josh

Dear Josh,
Although you’d be better off if he graduated, if he still hasn’t found himself, Uncle Sam is willing to cut you a break. There are basically two types of dependents: a qualifying child and a qualifying relative. A qualifying child includes your children or siblings (including step, half or foster) or a descendant of any of them. A qualifying child must be younger than age 19 at the end of the year or younger than 24 and a full-time student. Since your son has already turned 24, he is no longer considered a qualifying child. However, he may still be a qualifying relative.

As a qualifying relative, your child can be older than 24 and still be claimed as your dependent. However, the key difference between the two tests is that a qualifying relative cannot have more than $3,800 in gross income in 2012. If your son’s part-time earnings were less than that, you can claim him as a qualifying relative as you are his main source of support. Also, your son does not have to live with you.

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