A dependent is a qualifying child or relative who relies on you for financial support. To claim a dependent for tax credits or deductions, the dependent must meet specific requirements.

Answer questions to see if you can claim someone as a dependent on your tax return

See the full rules for dependents

General rules for dependents

These rules generally apply to all dependents:

  • A dependent must be a U.S. citizen, resident alien or national or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • A person can't be claimed as a dependent on more than one tax return, with rare exceptions
  • A dependent can't claim a dependent on their own tax return
  • You can't claim your spouse as a dependent if you file jointly
  • A dependent must be a qualifying child or qualifying relative

Qualifying child

To qualify as a dependent, a child must also pass these tests:

  • Relationship: Be your son, daughter, stepchild, eligible foster child, brother, sister, half-sister or -brother, stepbrother, stepsister, adopted child or the child of one of these
  • Age: Be under age 19 or under 24 if a full-time student, or any age if permanently and totally disabled
  • Residency: Live with you for more than half the year, with some exceptions
  • Support: Get more than half their financial support from you
  • Joint return: Not file as married filing jointly unless only to claim a refund of taxes paid or withheld

See the full rules for a qualifying child

Qualifying relative

A qualifying relative must meet general rules for dependents and pass these tests:

See the full rules for a qualifying relative

When to claim a dependent

You can currently claim dependents only for certain tax credits and deductions. Each credit or deduction has its own requirements.

If you’re a dependent on someone else’s return

You can be claimed as a dependent and still need to file your own tax return. Your filing requirement depends on your income, marital status and other criteria. Find details on filing requirements for dependents.

See if you need to file: answer questions to find out

You may want to file anyway so you can get any federal income tax your employer withheld back as a refund or claim certain refundable tax credits.


Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, Publication 501 

Your Federal Income Tax, Publication 17