Happy family looking at a tablet
Alexandra Sabalier
March 04, 2021
2 min

Claiming a Dependent on your Tax Return as an Unmarried Couple

How can unmarried couples who live together and have children together determine which parent may claim a child as a qualifying child for the child-related tax benefits?

If you support children, relatives, or non-relatives, then you may be able to claim them as dependents on your tax return but things can get a bit more complicated when both you and your partner have similar roles on your dependent's life and support but you're not filing a joint return as a married couple.

In this post I will briefly discuss in simple steps what are some of the options that you and your partner have to determine who of you can claim your child as a dependent for tax purposes.

Before I start discussing these steps, you should know what are the child-related tax benefits because this will help you understand why it is so important to know who has the right to claim your child as a dependent for tax purposes.

The the Child-related tax benefits include:

  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Dependency exemption
  • Child tax credit
  • Head of household filing status
  • Credit for child and dependent care expenses
  • Exclusion for dependent care benefits

In order to determine who can claim these benefits, you should follow these steps:

First: Take into consideration whether the state in which the parents reside recognize the parents' relationship as a common law marriage.

Second: Only a taxpayer who pays more than half of the household expenses may qualify for Head of Household filing status. If the parents truly split expenses equally, neither qualifies as Head of Household.

Third: If a child is a qualifying child of both the parents, generally, only one parent can claim the child as a qualifying child for all of the child-related tax benefits. This essentially means that one parent cannot claim Head of Household filing status, the dependency exemption and the child tax credit for a child, and the other parent claim the EITC for the same child.

Each parent may claim one of the children for all of the child-related benefits for which the parent otherwise qualifies.

Fourth: If both parents claim the same child for child-related tax benefits, the IRS applies a tiebreaker rule. If a child lived with each parent the same amount of time during the year, the IRS allows the parent with the higher adjusted gross income (AGI) to claim the child.

These steps are an initial part of the process, and on general terms should help you to get a glimpse on how the IRS processes these type of situations. For more detailed information about your specific case and circumstances, and to make sure your taxes are filed claiming the max amount of benefits you qualify for: Contact me for an initial consultation

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