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Qualifying Child of More Than One Person

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Sometimes a child meets the rules to be a qualifying child of more than one person. If the child is the qualifying child of more than one person, only one person can claim the child as a qualifying child for all of the following tax benefits:
 

  • EITC,
  • Dependency exemption for the child,
  • Child tax credit,
  • Head of household filing status,
  • Credit for the child and dependent care expenses, and
  • Exclusion for dependent care benefits.

The other person(s) cannot take any of the six tax benefits listed above unless he or she has a different qualifying child. If they cannot agree who will claim the child as a qualifying child, and more than one person actually claims tax benefits using the same child, the tie-breaker rules (explained below) apply. If the other person is a spouse and they file a joint return, this rule does not apply. Special rules apply for children of divorced or separated parents. For information for divorced and separated parents, see Publication 501.
 

Tie-Breaker Rules

Under the tie-breaker rule, the child is treated as a qualifying child only by:

  • The parents if they file a joint return;
  • The parent, if only one of the persons is the child's parent;
  • The parent with whom the child lived the longest during the tax year, if two of the persons are the child's parent and they do not file a joint return together.  
  • The parent with the highest AGI if the child lived with each parent for the same amount of time during the tax year, and they do not file a joint return together;
  • The person with the highest AGI if no parent can claim the child as a qualifying child; or
  • A person with the higher AGI than any parent who can also claim the child as a qualifying child but does not.


If another person uses your qualifying child to claim EITC using the tie breaker rule, you can claim EITC only if you have another qualifying child. You cannot take the credit using the rules for those with no qualifying child.
 

If you have a qualifying child and do not claim EITC using that qualifying child, you cannot take EITC for those not have a qualifying child. If you have another qualifying child, you may be able to claim the credit using this other child. 

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 22-Jan-2014