I’m off to a nephew’s wedding soon. So I thought that a post about married dependents might be timely.
At least once a tax season, I have a parent spend time trying to convince me that they have the right to claim their recently married child as a dependent. Among other things, they paid all that money for the wedding.
There are two classifications of dependents; qualifying child and qualifying relative. While each set has their own qualifications, both have three dependent rules in common. The taxpayer can’t be a dependent of someone else, the dependent must be a US citizen or a resident of the US, Canada or Mexico, and the dependent can’t file a joint tax return.
Marital status is decided on December 31st for the full year. If a taxpayer is married on 12/31, they are considered married for the year and can only file a married filing joint (MFJ) or married filing separate (MFS) for the year. (Let’s leave special circumstances out of this discussion.) Jack and Diane get married on June 6th so they can file MFJ or MFS. If they choose to file MFJ, neither can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return.
But we are talking the Tax Code here so of course there is an exception. If Jack and Diane are only filing to get their withholding back, they can be claimed as dependents on their parent’s returns if all other criteria are met. Basically, if they both filed MFS (with no personal exemption) and have no tax liability, they could file MFJ and be dependents on another return. But:
- If one would have tax if they filed MFS, they can’t be dependents. Even if there was no tax filing MFJ.
- If they would get a refund of more than their withholding (like EITC), they can’t be dependents.
- And they still have to meet all the other dependent criteria like relationship, member of household, age and support.
It’s possible to claim a married child as a dependent but you will have to know how much both earned and run a test return or two. And just because the joint return test doesn't rule them out as a dependent don't forget they have to meet all the other requirements too.