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Phillip B, EA
Phillip B, EA, Enrolled Agent
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 638
Experience:  Practicing since 2004. Expert in 1040, small business, represent vs. IRS, & int'l tax mattters.
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My wife and I divorced in 2011. We have 2 children, she claims

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My wife and I divorced in 2011. We have 2 children, she claims the oldest for taxes and I claim the youngest. The divorce decree splits school and daycare expenses 50/50. The oldest child is in school with minimal daycare costs and the youngest is attending a half day K3 class which is deductable as 'daycare' expenses (from my understanding) and has significantly higher daycare costs. As I filed my 2011 taxes I was fearful of triggering an audit and I ended up only claiming my half of the expenses for just the youngest child. I claimed half the daycare costs since that is what I paid for him and only the youngest child since that is the only child I can claim by the divorce decree. Since my wife claims the oldest child, can I claim the 50% of the tuition and daycare that I paid despite him not being a dependent in the eyes of the IRS? I've had some people say that I should be claiming all my expenses for both children under the youngest (whom I can claim), but I'm not sure the IRS would be happy with that. How do I deal with the deductions properly to maximize my return and not break IRS rules?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Tax
Expert:  Phillip B, EA replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for using JustAnswer

Generally, the child and dependent care credit can only be claimed by the custodial parent.

If the children (or one of the children) lived with you for more than half of the year, then you can claim all of the child care expenses of the children (or child) that lived with you for more than half of the year. If the children were in custody of your spouse for more than half of the year, she is the only taxpayer entitled to claim the child and dependent care credit.

"Since my wife claims the oldest child, can I claim the 50% of the tuition and daycare that I paid despite him not being a dependent in the eyes of the IRS?"

If the oldest child lived with you for more than half of the year, you can claim all child care expenses associated with that child for the child care credit regardless of whether you claimed that child or not.

"How do I deal with the deductions properly to maximize my return and not break IRS rules?"

For children in divorce, the four main deductions and credits are divided by custody and who claims the exemption. The dependency exemption and the child tax credit are deducted with the parent who claims the child as a dependent. The earned income credit and the child and dependent care credit, can only be used by the parent who has physical custody of the child for more than half of the year. There really is not much you can do to maximize these deductions.

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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
So just to be sure I am clear. I am correct in only claiming 1/2 of the child I claim as a dependent since I only paid 1/2 of the expenses and it is inappropriate to claim 1/2 the oldest expenses and 1/2 the youngest expenses under just the youngest child. Divorced parents get short changed on these deductions by IRS rules. Am I understanding your reply correctly?
Expert:  Phillip B, EA replied 2 years ago.
If neither child lived with you for more than half of the year, you cannot claim any of the child care expenses.

You can only claim child care expenses for a child if that child was physically present and living with you for more than 6 months of 2011. If the child was with you for more than 6 months, you can claim all of your expenses for the child that you are claiming the child care credit for.

However, if you and your wife were living together for more than 6 months, you both qualify to take the credit for either child. If this is the case, you should deduct the expenses you paid related to the child that you claimed on your return and your wife should do likewise with the child that she claimed on her return.

You are right about divorced parents being short changed.

Le me know if you need additional clarity.
Phillip B, EA, Enrolled Agent
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 638
Experience: Practicing since 2004. Expert in 1040, small business, represent vs. IRS, & int'l tax mattters.
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