A dependent is someone you support: meaning you've provided at least half of the person's total needs for the year (food, shelter, clothing, etc.). Typically, a dependent is a child or other relative. 

A dependent:

  • Must be a US Citizen, US national, or a resident alien
  • Must have a tax identification number (social security number, individual taxpayer identification number, or adoption taxpayer identification number) 
  • Can file their own tax returns, and even be married, but must not have filed a joint return unless it was only to claim a refund 

Specifically, to claim a child as a dependent: 

  • Must have lived with you for half the year
  • Must be related to you (son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of those) 
  • Must be 18 or under at the end of the year (or under 24 if a student who was full-time for at least 5 months of the year) 
  • Must be younger than your (or your spouse if married filing jointly), unless the child is disabled

For other relatives or an unrelated person:

  • Must not have income over $4,050
  • Must not be a qualifying dependent of another person (you can't claim the person if someone else could)
  • Must be related to you or have lived with you all year as a member of your household. 

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