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Family Tax Topics

Claiming Children and Dependents on Taxes

Here’s what parents need to know about claiming kids and other dependents on their tax return.

Rules for claiming children and dependents

The total Child Tax Credit for each qualifying child under age 17 is $2,000 per child – with up to $1,400 of the credit for each child refundable. The credits are available for incomes up to $400,000 for those filing a joint return and $200,000 for all others. This means a potentially larger refund for hardworking, low and middle-income taxpayers.

Life changes involving children and dependents

  • If you’ve had a child graduate and move out on their own they are generally no longer a dependent. There are also no tax benefits, including the Credit for Other Dependents (ODC). However, if you have student loans in your name for your child, you can claim the interest paid even after the child becomes an independent individual.
  • Children who are still dependents while in college generally qualify for the $500 Credit for Other Dependents and may qualify you for either the American Opportunity Credit (AOTC) or the Lifetime Learning Credit. The AOTC can be as much as $2,500 per student while the Lifetime Learning Credit can be as much as $2,000 per tax return.
  • Having a child during the year is a big tax break. A child born during the year may make you eligible for the Child Tax Credits and other credits such as the Child and Dependent Care Credit for daycare.
  • Adopting a child, even an older child, can get you a credit of up to $14,300 of your adoption expenses. If you adopt a child from the foster care system, or other qualifying children, you can get the full $14,300 credit.



The Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) are now larger – and up to $1,400 of the credit for each child claimed is refundable.

How can I claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for children and dependents?

If you want to claim a child or dependent as part of your EITC claim, your child or dependent must meet the qualifying child rules:

  • Relationship Test – the child must be your:
    • Son, daughter, stepchild, adopted child, or eligible foster child – or descendant (for example, a grandchild or great-grandchild)
    • Sibling, half-sibling, stepsibling, or descendant (for example, nephew or niece)
    • Age Test – The child must be under age 19, a full-time student under age 24, or any age if permanently and totally disabled.
      • NOTE: The taxpayer must be older than the child unless the child is disabled
    • Residency Test – The child must have the same main home as you for more than half the year.
    • The child cannot be claimed by more than one person to claim the EITC. If a child is a qualifying child for you and another person, you will need to decide who will claim that child. If both of you claim the same child, the IRS will use the tiebreaker rule to determine who can claim the child as a qualifying child and receive the allowed tax benefits.



    The child cannot be used by more than one person to claim the EITC. If a child is the qualifying child for you and another person, you will need to decide who will claim that child.

    How can I claim a dependent on my tax return?

    If a person does not meet the tests for being a qualifying child, they may qualify as your dependent under the qualifying relative tests.

    Qualifying Relative

    Qualifying relatives can include children who do not meet the qualifying child Age Test, other relatives (for example, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and in-laws), and unrelated members of the household. Dependents under the qualifying relative status do not qualify the taxpayer for the EIC or child tax credits.

    A person is your qualifying relative if all of the following tests are met:

    • Not a Qualifying Child Test – Your qualifying relative must not be a qualifying child for any other taxpayer.
      • Note: An exception to this rule is when the other taxpayer for whom the child is a qualifying child is not required to, and does not, file a tax return. For example, Amanda and her son, Travis, live with Jeremy all year. Amanda worked during the holiday and earned $3,800. Amanda does not file a tax return because she is not required to so Jeremy can claim Travis as a qualifying relative. Jeremy is unable to claim the Child Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit, or the Earned Income Credit for Travis.
    • Member of Household or Relationship Test – Your qualifying relative must either live with you for the entire year as a member of your household (but the relationship cannot violate local law) or be related to you in one of the following ways:
      • Child (son, daughter, or adopted child), or descendant (for example, grandchild or great-grandchild)
      • Stepchild
      • Sibling, half-sibling, or step sibling
      • Parent or direct ancestor (for example, grandparent or great grandparent)
      • Stepfather or stepmother
      • Uncle or aunt
      • Nephew or niece
      • Father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law. Special rules may apply for kidnapped children and for temporary absences due to special circumstances such as illness, education, business, vacation, and military service.
    • Gross Income Test – Your qualifying relative cannot have a gross income in excess of $4,300 for the year.
    • Support Test – Generally, you must provide more than half of your qualifying relative's total support. Special rules may apply when more than one person is providing support for an individual or for children of divorced or separated parents.


    Children and Dependents

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Questions and Answers: Children and Dependents

    Why is my refund so late if I claim EITC?
    The PATH Act requires the IRS to hold all refunds related to the EITC or ACTC until after February 14. This allows the IRS the ability to review returns and check for tax fraud or tax id theft.

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