Can I Claim My Spouse as a Dependent?

When you are filing your tax returns during the tax season, a lot of things must be understood and clearly stated in return. From making sure that information in Form W2 is accurate to correct estimation of allowances, withholding taxes, etc., in Form W2, it takes a lot of time and effort.

Among all the hassle of tax return filing, understanding the tax rules and personal exemptions related to the dependents of a tax filer is also very crucial.

Generally dependent refers to a person who is not financially independent and rely on someone to pay for the expenses and cost of living.

The definition of independent is just the opposite. Long story short, whether parents are claiming their children as dependent or spouse or relative as a dependent, they’re not well aware of the rules, specifically after the advent of TCJA 2017.

Many people have ambiguities about claiming their spouse as a dependent or not. The question often arises when the spouse is not earning anything, and the tax filer is the sole breadwinner of the house. However, the meaning of dependent and independent might change when filing tax returns.

Can I claim my spouse, domestic partner, or significant other as a dependent? What are the tax laws related to this? How can I proceed?

We will attempt to answer all relevant questions of the tax filers confused about claiming their spouses as dependent while filing tax returns. So let’s get into it.

How Do Tax Laws Define A Dependent Person?

We already mentioned that a dependent person is seen as an individual who cannot support his financial expenses and cost of living. He must rely on someone like his parents, partner, or spouse to meet the expenses.

When it comes to the IRS and related tax laws, a dependent individual is judged based on two standards. IRS has segregated dependent persons under the following categories: a qualifying child or a qualifying relative.

When we talk about the personal exemptions or tax advantages by claiming your dependent in the tax return, there’s no personal exemption anymore. Before the tax year 2018, the tax filers were entitled to personal exemption against the dependent on their return.

Related article  What is SBAD TREAS 310 MISCEL Pay?

However, the introduction of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act 2017 has ruled out the loophole in the system. Any tax return filed between 2018 and 2025 is not entitled to personal exemption under dependent individuals.

Defining Dependent Individual

 A qualifying child or a qualifying relative, as mentioned above, can be claimed on the tax return. Here is the definition and conditions for each:

Qualifying Child

You can claim a child as a dependent if the criteria of the qualifying child are met, which is as follows:

  • A child, stepchild, sibling, foster child, stepsibling, or descendant of the taxpayer can be claimed as dependent on his tax return.
  • If the child has stayed more than six months with the taxpayer for the tax year
  • The dependent child is less than 19 by the end of the tax year. Or if he is less than 24 years old, he must be a full-time student for five or more months for the current tax year, Or if he is a permanently and totally disabled child.
  • If a child is not able to support more than ½ of his expenses for a tax year, he can be claimed as a dependent.
  • He must be a resident, citizen, or national of the USA, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
  • An unmarried person or if married uses married filing separate return status. In case of joint return status, the couple should by claiming a full refund on the return, and none of the spouses is liable to pay any taxes if separate returns were filed

Qualifying Relative

The criteria for a qualifying relative to be claimed as a dependent by the taxpayer are as follows:

  • None of the criteria outlined for a qualifying child is met.
  • An adult child can be claimed as a dependent under a qualifying relative if he is a biological/adopted child, descendent, half-sibling, stepchild, foster child, or stepsibling.
  • A taxpayer can claim his parents, grandparents, aunt/uncle, mother or father-in-law, niece/nephew, son or daughter-in-law, stepparent, brother or sister-in-law
  • The relative must have lived with the taxpayer for the complete tax year.
Related article  2022 Guide to Get W2 Form from Aerotek (For Current & Previous Employees)

A taxpayer can claim the people or relatives mentioned above as his dependent. However, the following conditions must be met:

  • The taxpayer supports more than ½ of the dependent relative’s financial expenses and cost of living for the tax year.
  • The qualifying relative is a citizen, resident, or national of the USA or resident of Mexico or Canada.
  • An unmarried person or if married uses married filing separate return status. In case of joint return status, the couple should by claiming a full refund on the return, and none of the spouses is liable to pay any taxes if separate returns were filed

Can I Claim My Spouse As My Dependent

So, here is the answer: you cannot claim your spouse as your dependent.

IRS doesn’t consider your spouse as your dependent. Before TCJA, people could claim a personal exemption for the spouse, but it’s no longer there.

Therefore, you cannot claim your spouse as your dependent in any way. Your spouse neither fulfills the criteria of qualifying child nor qualifying relative. Therefore, there’s not any exemption for your spouse whether he or she has income below $4,300.

Can I Claim My Domestic Partner As Dependent?

What if you want to claim your common-law partner or domestic partner as a dependent?

A common-law partner or domestic partner is a term used for couples who are not formally married but are living together and enjoy the benefits of married couples like health benefits, insurance, etc.

So, back to the question.

Yes, you can claim your domestic partner as your dependent until and unless they qualify for Qualifying relative as laid out by the IRS.

If your domestic partner fulfills the following conditions in addition to the qualifying relative, they can be claimed as a dependent:

  • The taxpayer supports more than ½ of the dependent relative’s financial expenses and cost of living for the tax year.
  • The qualifying relative is a citizen, resident, or national of the USA or resident of Mexico or Canada.
  • An unmarried person or if married uses married filing separate return status. In case of joint return status, the couple should by claiming a full refund on the return, and none of the spouses is liable to pay any taxes if separate returns were filed
Related article  How to File Your Shopify 1099-K? (How to Verify and FAQs+)

But if you get married to your domestic partner before the end of the current tax year, you no longer qualify to claim him/her as your dependent while filing the tax return.

Can I Claim My Boyfriend/Girlfriend As Dependent?

The rules are the same in the case of your significant other. If they meet the criteria of qualifying relatives, you can claim them as your dependent on your tax return. However, as soon as they don’t meet the criteria or you marry them, you cannot claim them as your dependent.

Should Married Couples File Separately or Jointly?

When you know that you cannot claim your spouse as a dependent, what is the best way to minimize your tax liability? Should you file separately or jointly?

The benefits, income, credits, exemptions, and deductions of the married couples are combined for tax purposes. 90% of the couples file jointly in the USA.

They go for joint returns because of the benefits they can get jointly. A joint return can be filed when both spouses agree on returning jointly, or one of them doesn’t have any income or deduction.

The benefits of joint filing are lower tax bracket means lower tax liability. When you have the right tax software or consultant with you, you can make maximum out of the joint return.

Final Words

Until and unless you’re not legally married, you can claim your domestic partner, common-law partner, or girlfriend as a dependent.

However, you cannot claim your spouse as a dependent once married. But you can always claim credits, exemptions, etc., and lower your tax liability as a married couple.