Can I Claim My Girlfriend Or Boyfriend As A Dependent?

Summary:

You can claim your girlfriend or boyfriend as a dependent if they qualify under the “member of household” test. This means you live with them and provide more than half their financial support, they aren’t claimed on someone else’s taxes, and they have less than $4,300 of income.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers many ways that taxpayers can reduce their tax burden through the use of tax credits and deductions. One way to reduce your tax burden is to claim someone else — known as a dependent — on your taxes.

The most common way people save money on their taxes with dependents is by claiming their children. However, there are other people you may also be able to claim, including your significant other.

Can I claim my girlfriend or boyfriend as a dependent?

If you have a partner who you help to support financially, you may be wondering whether you can claim them as a dependent on your tax returns. Like many complex tax questions, the short answer is: it depends.

An unmarried couple who cannot be claimed as a dependent on another’s income tax return might be in a situation where one party of the unmarried couple qualify as a dependent of the other party of the unmarried couple under the ‘member of household’ test.”

In some situations, you can claim your girlfriend or boyfriend — and even possibly their children — as dependents on your tax returns. However, to take advantage of this perk, you’ll have to meet some strict IRS rules regarding your partner’s residency, income, and financial support.

An unmarried couple who cannot be claimed as a dependent on another’s income tax return might be in a situation where one party of the unmarried couple qualify as a dependent of the other party of the unmarried couple under the ‘member of household’ test,” said Andrew Griffith, a CPA and owner of Andrew Griffith CPA.

Benefits of claiming your partner as a dependent

The primary benefit of claiming anyone — including your significant other — as a dependent is that it lowers your tax burden.

It used to be the case that you could claim a personal exemption for each of your dependents. In 2017, the most recent tax year exemptions were available, you could lower your taxable income by $4,050 for each dependent you claimed.

In 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which, among other things, removed personal exemptions from the tax code. However, this change was temporary and only removed exemptions for tax years 2018 through 2025. Unless further action is taken, exemptions will return to the tax code starting in the tax year 2026.

In place of personal exemptions, Congress increased the standard deduction. This change is also temporary and will revert back in the tax year 2026.

All of this begs the question: what is the benefit today of claiming someone as a dependent on your taxes?

“At the federal level, a dependent may result in qualifying for certain tax credits and deductions,” Griffith said. “At the state and local level, a dependent may result in qualifying for certain tax credits and deductions and also increases in the amount of taxable income that is free of tax at that particular income tax level.

“In other words, claiming a legitimate dependent can result in less money owed to an applicable income tax authority or a larger refund from an applicable income tax authority.”

Other forms of tax relief

The IRS offers many tax breaks in the form of tax deductions and tax credits. These tools can help you reduce your tax bill or increase your tax refund.

One example of such a tax break is a tax credit for other dependents. While it’s not as large as the tax credit available when you claim dependent children, you can still receive $500 added to your tax return for each adult dependent and each minor dependent that isn’t a relative.

However, if you’re looking to significantly reduce your tax bill or the amount of back taxes you owe, smaller tax credits like these may not be enough. Instead, speak with a tax relief company about how to best pay down your tax debt.

Pro Tip

The tax credit for other dependents phases out when you reach an individual income of $200,000 or a joint income of $400,000. At that point, you’ll no longer receive the full $500.

Rules for claiming your boyfriend or girlfriend as a dependent

There are two categories of people you can claim as dependents on your taxes: qualifying children and qualifying relatives. When you claim your boyfriend or girlfriend as a dependent, they would be a qualifying relative. To determine whether you’re eligible to claim your partner as a qualifying relative, the IRS sets the following tests.

Not a qualifying child test

For you to claim someone as a qualifying relative on your tax return, that person can’t be your qualifying child or the qualifying child or anyone else.

In the case of your partner, they would obviously pass the test of not being your qualifying child. However, parents can claim their children up until age 23 if they’re students. If your partner falls within that age range, it’s important to make sure they can’t be claimed as a qualifying child by their parents.

Household test

For someone to be considered a qualifying relative for purposes of claiming them as a dependent, they must meet one of the two requirements:

  1. The person must be related to you as a son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, grandchild, sibling, step-sibling, sibling-in-law, parent, or parent-in-law, OR
  2. The person must live in your home year-round, and your relationship must not violate any local laws.

Income test

For you to claim someone as a qualifying dependent on your tax return, that person must earn less than $4,300 per year in gross income. Gross income doesn’t include Social Security benefits, including disability benefits, but it does include any income in the form of money, goods, services, and property that isn’t tax-exempt.

Support test

The final test to determine whether you can claim your significant other on your taxes is whether you financially support them. For you to claim someone as a qualifying relative, you must provide more than 50% of the person’s total support for the year.

In order words, do you pay for the majority of your partner’s living expenses? If so, you probably pass the support test.

Pro Tip

Depending on your situation, you may be able to claim both your partner and any children they have from a previous relationship. To claim your partner’s children as dependents, they must pass the same tests listed above, including not having any other taxpayer who can claim them on their tax return.

When you can’t claim your partner as a dependent

The section above outlines when you can claim your boyfriend or girlfriend as a dependent on your taxes. However, it may also be helpful to see some certain circumstances where you can’t claim them:

  • Someone else claims them on their tax returns. As we mentioned, parents can claim their adult children up to age 23 if that child is a full-time student. If your partner is 23 or under and a student, it’s important to confirm they haven’t been claimed on someone else’s taxes.
  • They don’t live with you. You may be able to claim your partner as a dependent if you live together year-round. But if you don’t live together, you can’t claim them. Only relatives can be claimed without living in the same home.
  • They make too much money. As we mentioned, an adult over age 23 can’t be claimed as a dependent if they earn more than $4,300 from all sources combined (with the exception of Social Security income).
  • They receive support from someone else. Even if someone passes the tests for not being a qualifying child, living in your home, and not having income above $4,300, you could still be prohibited from claiming them as a dependent if someone else provides at least half of their financial support.
  • You’re married. The IRS test for qualifying relative dependents is for a non-spouse relative or member of your household. If you and your partner are married, you won’t be able to claim them as a dependent. Instead, you’ll choose between married filing jointly and married filing separately.

FAQs

Can I claim my unmarried partner as a dependent?

Yes, you can claim your unmarried partner as a dependent as long as they meet the requirements set by the IRS.

How do you file taxes if you are not married but living together?

In most cases, unmarried partners who live together will each file tax returns as separate single filers. If one partner has less than $4,300 of income, the other partner can claim them as a qualifying relative dependent.

What is the penalty for illegally claiming someone as a dependent?

Lying on your taxes, including claiming dependents you aren’t eligible to claim, can result in serious penalties. Because this act is considered tax evasion, you could face both financial penalties and jail time, depending on the situation.

Key Takeaways

  • The IRS allows you to claim non-relative adults, including significant others, as dependents as long as they meet certain requirements.
  • For you to claim someone as a dependent, they must meet four key tests: the non-qualifying child test, the household test, the income test, and the support test.
  • When you claim your partner as a dependent, you can claim a tax credit for other dependents, adding $500 to your income tax return.
  • You can’t claim your partner as a dependent in a few cases. These include if you’re married, they’re claimed by someone else, they don’t live with you, they make too much money, or you don’t live together.

File your taxes right the first time

The best way to ensure you’re filing your taxes correctly is to enlist the help of a professional individual or service. We’ve rounded up a list of the best tax preparation services to help you find the right one for you. These services can help you maximize your return while avoiding costly mistakes.

View Article Sources
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