The first person you can claim as an exemption is yourself. However, if someone else is able to claim you as their dependent, you cannot claim an exemption for yourself. You can claim your spouse as an exemption if you are filing a joint return. If you are filing separate returns, you can only claim your spouse as an exemption if he or she is not the dependent of anyone else, and he or she does not have any income.
The next exemptions you can claim are for your dependents. There are two types of dependents -- qualifying children and qualifying relatives. A qualifying child would be your child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, step-sibling, or the children of any of these. The child would qualify to be your personal exemption as long as the child lived with you for more than half the year, not counting temporary absences; the child is not yet age 19, or under age 24 and a full-time student, or is permanently and totally disabled; and the child did not provide greater than half of his or her own support.
A qualifying relative is any relative except a qualifying child, or a member of your household. In order to qualify to be a personal exemption on your income tax return, the qualifying relative must have had less than $3,400 in gross income for the year, and you must have contributed more than half of the person’s support or greater than 10 percent of their support under the multiple support test.
There are a few other restrictions on claiming qualifying children or relatives. You cannot claim anyone as your dependent if you, or your spouse if filing a joint return, can be claimed as someone else’s dependent. If the child or relative is not a United States citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada, Mexico, or the U.S. for part of the year, except for some adopted children, you cannot claim that child or relative as an exemption. If the child or relative is married and files jointly with their spouse, you cannot claim them unless the return is only filed for the purpose of claiming a refund and none of the spouses would have a tax amount due if filing separately.
If your qualifying child or relative died during the taxable year, you can still take the exemption, provided the requirements for claiming the exemption would otherwise have been satisfied.
Make sure you have correctly recorded names and Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse, and any dependents. The Internal Revenue Service verifies all Social Security numbers on income tax returns for accuracy.
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