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IRS Dependent Exemption

The IRS' rules for dependent exemption can be broken down as follows. To qualify for IRS dependent exemption, the dependent must:

  • be either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative, AND
  • pass the dependent exemption test.

Basically, there are three sets of tests involved for the IRS dependent exemption qualification.

  1. dependent exemption tests
  2. qualifying child tests
  3. qualifying relative tests
Definition of a dependent in tax term

A dependent is, for tax purposes, someone meeting the tests of dependent exemption AND either qualifying child tests or qualifying relative tests. If you meet these tests then you are someone's dependent whether that person claims you as his or her dependent or not.

IRS dependent exemption rules and tests for all dependents
  • A dependent (and a spouse of a dependent if you file taxes jointly) cannot claim any dependents (Dependent Taxpayer Test).


  • If someone files a joint tax return, you cannot claim that person as a dependent unless they file only for refunds (Joint Return Test).


  • Only the people with the following status (even if not all year) can be claimed as dependents (Citizen or Resident Test).


    • US citizens


    • US residents alien


    • US national


    • Resident of Canada or Mexico.


  • A dependent must be either a qualifying child or qualifying relative.
Tests for Qualifying Child and Qualifying Relative

If someone passes the above three rules for dependent exemption, you will then test to see if that person can be classified as a qualifying child. If not, then maybe that person can be classified as a qualifying relative.

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