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Who can you claim as a Dependent?


Which the tax laws changing every year, enforcement of the tax rules has become a priority for the IRS. It is imperative that taxpayers understand these rules and the consequences for not following them.





Who can you claim as a dependent?


Qualifying child.

To be your dependent (defined earlier), a person must be either your qualifying child or your qualifying relative (defined next). Generally, a person is your qualifying child if that person:



  • Is your child, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them;

  • Lived with you for more than half of the year;

  • Didn’t provide more than half of his or her own support for the year;

  • Was under age 19 at the end of the year and younger than you (or your spouse if filing jointly) (or was under age 24 at the end of the year, a student, and younger than you (or your spouse if filing jointly), or was any age and permanently and totally disabled); and

  • Didn’t file a joint return with his or her spouse.



Qualifying relative.

To be your dependent (defined earlier), a person must be either your qualifying child (defined earlier) or your qualifying relative. Generally, a person is your qualifying relative if that person:


  • Lives with or is related to you,

  • Has less than $4,300 of gross (total) income,

  • Is supported (generally more than 50%) by you, and

  • Is neither your qualifying child nor the qualifying child of anyone else.


Civil Penalties for Claiming False Dependents

When you knowingly claim a false dependent on your taxes, you risk sanctions and a potential audit from the IRS. Claiming false deductions like dependents is considered tax evasion and is, therefore, a felony with potentially severe criminal penalties.


If the IRS concludes that you knowingly claimed a false dependent, they can:

  • Assess a civil penalty of 20% of your understood tax.

  • If suspected of fraud on your false deduction, it can assess a penalty of 75% to your understood tax.

  • The IRS will impose late charges that come with the false claim.

  • Disallow EIC for a period of 2 years if the IRS determined you weren't entitled to the EIC and that your error was due to reckless or intentional disregard of the EIC rules.

  • Disallow EIC for a period of 10 years if the IRS determined you weren't entitled to the EIC and that your error was due to fraud.

State consequences

If you are a parent or legal guardian of children and did not work, or have more than 3 dependents to claim, do not pass out your children. State and Federal systems communicate with each other, and if you receive any sort of government assistance (housing subsidy, food stamps, cash assistance, medicaid, fasfa) you may be responsible for paying back that assistance from the state, face state fines, or face state fraud charges if your tax return doesn't line up with your state application for these services.


Another reason you may not want to pass out your children is that although you are capped at 3 children for the ETIC, your other children may qualify for the child tax credit. People who pass out their children rarely receive more than $1000 from the person they allowed to claim their children, so it doesn't make sense to do so if you may be already getting that same amount with the Child tax credit.


People and untrained tax preparers are often drawn towards the temptation to put false information of their tax file when they do not know what their options are to reduce taxes. This is why it is important to for you to consult with a tax practitioner throughout the year as opposed to waiting to tax time. The consultation will prove itself useful by helping you avoid tax traps you wouldn't;t ordinarily know how to avoid.


References




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