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Five Things to Remember About Exemptions and Dependents for Tax Year 2017

IRS Tax Tip 2018-20, February 7, 2018

Most taxpayers can claim one personal exemption for themselves and, if married, one for their spouse. This helps reduce their taxable income on their 2017 tax return. They may also be able to claim an exemption for each of their dependents. Each exemption normally allows them to deduct $4,050 on their 2017 tax return. While each is worth the same amount, different rules apply to each type.

Here are five key points for taxpayers to keep in mind on exemptions and dependents when filing their 2017 tax return:

  1. Claiming Personal Exemptions. On a joint return, taxpayers can claim one exemption for themselves and one for their spouse. If a married taxpayer files a separate return, they can only claim an exemption for their spouse if their spouse meets all of these requirements. The spouse:
    • Had no gross income.
    • Is not filing a tax return.
    • Was not the dependent of another taxpayer.
  2. Claiming Exemptions for Dependents. A dependent is either a child or a relative who meets a set of tests. Taxpayers can normally claim an exemption for their dependents. Taxpayers should remember to list a Social Security number for each dependent on their tax return.
  3. Dependents Cannot Claim Exemption. If a taxpayer claims an exemption for their dependent, the dependent cannot claim a personal exemption on their own tax return. This is true even if the taxpayer does not claim the dependent’s exemption on their tax return.
  4. Dependents May Have to File a Tax Return. This depends on certain factors like total income, whether they are married, and if they owe certain taxes.
  5. Exemption Phase-Out. Taxpayers earning above certain amounts will lose part or all the $4,050 exemption. These amounts differ based on the taxpayer’s filing status.
  6. The IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically. The software will walk taxpayers through the steps of completing their return, making sure all the necessary information is included about dependents. E-file options include free Volunteer Assistance, IRS Free File, commercial software and professional assistance.
  7. Taxpayers can get questions about claiming dependents answered by using the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov. The ITA called Whom May I Claim as a Dependent will help taxpayers determine if they can claim someone on their return.

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