I am my Own Dependent

Today Kelly from college wants to know, “If a parent claims a child as a dependent on their taxes, is that parent legally required to support the child financially, in any way? And what is the legal definition of a dependent?

I’m a college student and my parents claim me on their taxes, but refuse to pay my college tuition or help me with living expenses (rent, food, etc.). Can they still get away with legally claiming me as a dependent?”


Hey, Kelly

That’s a very good question.

I don’t know what else they do, or don’t do for you, but you don’t want to burn any bridges. They’re going to parents for a very, very long time.

For a parent to claim their away-from-home child as a dependent on their tax return, you must be under age 24, a full-time student, and that parent must provide more than 50% of the support for you, to be dependent.

So add up your living costs:
Car, insurance (auto and health) , rent and utilities, food, clothing, etc.

Use this Support Test that IRS provides in Publication 17
http://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch03.html#d0e11786

If you’re paying more than half – take yourself as a dependent on your own tax return.

And LET YOUR PARENTS KNOW! (If you’re not on speaking terms, at least send them a note showing the support test.) That will avoid having to fight it out when IRS gets tax returns with both you and your parents claiming you as a dependent.

KEEP DETAILED PROOF that you are paying those expenses. Save that worksheet.

If your parents insist on taking you anyway, you WILL both get letters from IRS after you file your tax returns. Each of you will have to prove who’s entitled to the dependency exemption. So, don’t be intimidated when the letter arrives.

And don’t ignore it. You MUST answer it on time or your parents will ‘win’.

So, it looks like it’s time to be your own person!

Naturally, you’ll find answers to all your questions about taxes, where? At TaxMama.com

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