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What are “Number of Dependents” When Filing Your Taxes

by Lily Morgen
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Number of Dependents Tax Return form 1040

“Dependents” is generally a tax purposes term used in income taxes in the United States. You may fill in the blank of “Number of Dependents” when claiming on your tax return (Form 1040), Form W-4, job application or apply for financial aid (such as federal student aid)

The number of dependents you claim on those documents is an important figure to consider when filing. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants to know how many people you are directly responsible for providing financial support for.

And each dependent you claim may reduce your taxes and affect the amount of money you can deduct from your taxable income or the maximum amount you’re eligible for financial aid.

What Does the “Number of Dependents” Mean?

In general, “dependents” are people who rely on you for financial support and care because they have no or little sources of income or they cannot get employment due to age, physical or mental disability. 

Therefore, the number of dependents means the number of people who depends on you for their survival. And you need to cover more than 50% of their annual living costs. 

Typically, they’re your family members, including your spouse (if you’re married and he/she doesn’t work) and your children (aged below 19 or under 24 if they are full-time students), but can also include your elderly parents or siblings who’re financially dependent on you. Children may not be your dependents if you’re single. 

Why “Number of Dependents” Is Important in Your Tax Return

In the US, you need to submit a 1040 form to the IRS to report your tax situation (income, deductions, and credits) every year. This form is commonly known as an individual tax return.

Tax returns are an important part of filing taxes, as it is used to determine how much tax you should pay. Therefore, it’s important to understand what you are submitting, as it will determine your taxes for the year.

A tax return is an opportunity for taxpayers to inform the IRS about their financial activities during the past year in order to determine if they owe taxes or are entitled to a refund. 

How IRS Defines a Dependent

In the United States, the IRS defines a dependent as someone who is related to you as either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative. 

Generally, if the person is your qualifying child or relative, they may be considered a dependent. 

Qualifying Child

A qualifying child must meet the following criteria:

  • The age must be under the age of 19 at the end of the tax year (or under 24 if they are full-time students).
  • The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them.
  • The child must have lived with you for more than half the year.
  • You provide more than half of their financial support for the year.

Qualifying Relative

In order to qualify as a “qualifying relative,” the relative must meet all of the following requirements:

  • The relative cannot have already been claimed as a dependent on another person’s return.
  • The relative must be either related to the taxpayer by blood, marriage, or adoption; lived with the taxpayer for the entire tax year; and must not have provided more than half of their own financial support for that same period.
  • The relative’s gross income (excluding any nontaxable Social Security benefits) for the tax year must be less than $4,400 in 2022. This amount changes each year, so taxpayers should check with the IRS for the current limit.
  • You provide more than half of their financial support for the year.
  • You cannot claim someone as a dependent who has also filed a joint return with their spouse, as this would mean that they are filing a tax return and are claiming themselves. 

Final Thought

Hope you understand the meaning of “Number of Dependents” in your tax return. Keep in mind that you can only claim someone as a dependent if you pay for more than half of their living expenses for the year. Meanwhile, a person cannot be claimed as a dependent by more than one taxpayer in the same tax year.

Overall, you need to understand the criteria set forth by the IRS in order to properly determine if you can claim someone as a dependent on your taxes. Keep in mind that the rules and regulations of the IRS may change from year to year.

Taking the time to review and familiarize yourself with the criteria or consult with an accountant or tax preparer to ensure your dependents are correctly identified and claimed on your tax return.  

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