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Ask Lane Your Own Question
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 11373
Experience:  Law Degree, specialization in Tax Law and Corporate Law, CFP and MBA, Providing Financial & Tax advice since 1986
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My stepdaughter has been with my wife and I since January of

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My stepdaughter has been with my wife and I since January of 2012....she has four children. We have provided shelter, water, and much food, but not all. Who is legally in the right to claim the dependant children. She has hardly worked at all this year.

You should be able to claim the dependents because they DO meet the 4 criteria needed for "qualifying Child"

1st, there's the RELATIONSHIP test:

THe children must be be your child, step child, adopted child, foster child, brother or sister, (or a descendant of one of these).

2nd, the RESIDENCE test:

They have to have lived with you for more than half the year.

Then there's the age test:

•under age 19 at the end of the year, or
•under age 24 and a be a full-time student for at least five months out of the year, or
•any age and totally and permanently disabled.

And finally, Support - the dependent must not have provided mare than half of his or her own support for the tax year.

If you can show that these test are met, you can claim them as dependents.

One dependency exemption is essentially a $3,800 deduction for 2012.

Hope this helps!


(Positive feedback appreciated, BUT, if you need clarification come back here so you won't have to pay for another question)

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

My stepdaughter who has been living here rent free is planning on claiming the dependants on her taxes, while have have put the roof over their heads, I am trying to find out who has the right to claim.

If both of you claim the the IRS uses tie-breaker tests.

The child will be the qualifying child of:

1st -The parent,
2nd- the parent with whom the child lived for the longest time during the year,
3rd- If the time was equal, the parent with the highest adjusted gross income, and
4th, if no taxpayer is the child's parent, the taxpayer with the highest adjusted gross income.

A child can only be a dependent of one person (only one person can claim successfully)

HOWEVER ... if she didn't work that much the exemptions may not do much good. The filing threshhold for 2012 for a single filer is 9500.

See this:

Also if she did work a little, had tax withheld, and is trying to get a refund, its most likely that YOU taking the exemptions will bring back more money into that house.

Again one exemption takes 3800 off of your taxable income.

SO if you're in the 25% bracket and she's in the 10%, thats 3800x4 off of your incomes ... $15,200.

At a 25% tax bracket, the tax benefit brings 3,800 back into the house. At a 10% tax bracket (income less than 17,400) that only brings 1,520 back into the house.

Maybe if you can help her understand that (or maybe even, worst case, offer her some of it, or offer to buy groceries with it) she will do the smart thing.

But if you both claim them, she would win the tie-breaker.

I know this might not be good news, but it's accurate.

(I hope you'll rate my answer on its accuracy and thoroughness, rather than any good news/bad news content. PLUS knowing the facts, may help you to "see around some corners.")


Lane and other Tax Specialists are ready to help you

Thanks Alan.

And good luck with everything.