Other than fitting the description of a constant liability, what other qualifying attributes must one have, to be classed as a dependent, and how do you determine this for tax purposes? The following paragraphs explain the qualifying tests for determining dependency as it relates to your tax status, liability and available credits. First, we need to make you aware that there are two different types of dependents.
There are several "qualifying tests" an individual must pass, in order to be qualified as a dependent on a US 1040 tax return. The tests for dependency are centered around the actual support tests that the candidate must pass; first, the qualifying individual must be the taxpayers child, stepchild, foster child, sibling or stepsibling, or a descendent of one of these (such as a niece or nephew), second the qualifying individual must have the same principal residence as the taxpayer for more than half the year and there are exceptions for children of divorced parents, kidnapped children, and for children who were born or died during the year, third the qualifying individual must be under the age of 19, or 24 if a full-time student and fourth, the qualifying individual must not have provided for more than one-half of their own support during the year.
There are some additional rules that a dependent must pass, that really have nothing to do with the amount of support provided, but do determine their eligibility as US citizens and the ability to be considered for dependency. First, the qualifying individual must be a US citizen or national, and their marital status must be single, unless the are married but did not file a joint return for that year, or there was no tax liability that existed for either spouse had they filed separately.
If the qualifying individual can pass all four of the above described qualifying tests, as well as the additional rules, then any of the deductions, exemptions, and credits that are available can be used. For instance, child care expenses, child tax credits, dependent care expenses, earned income credit, and any associated itemized deductions may be claimed if the qualifying individual is determined eligible.
Determining eligibility in many cases means the difference between owing tax on your return, and the eligibility to file as head of household, and receive a refund that would include earned income credit. The earned income tax credit is a negative tax, and an attempt by the government to provide lower and poverty level income families with the opportunity to receive much needed assistance with caring for and supporting their families. Today, however, the earned income credit is becoming an opportunity for some segments of the public to abuse the goodwill of their government and falsify claims of dependency qualifications.
The child and dependent care expenses cover things like daycare, after school care programs, and any other form of paid care that is necessary for the qualifying individual to receive while the taxpayer is away at work. The only thing to watch here is that all qualifying individuals for the child and dependent care expenses must be under the age of 13. The child tax credit is comparable to the earned income credit, in that it is a straight credit, dollar for dollar deduction of your tax liability. The child tax credit may only be taken by individuals with a qualifying dependent that is under the age of 17.
As you undertake the task of determining if your dependent meets the qualifying tests, and can actually provide some benefit in tax reduction at the end of the year, remember that it may take a little work, but the potential payoff could be well worth the time it takes to determine if you are single with no dependents, or head of household with a dependent and the opportunity to claim earned income credit, child care expense deductions, as well as file for the child tax credit. The result could be amazing!