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Who does the IRS consider a dependent?

Many Massachusetts residents may ask this question every year. With the tax changes now in effect this tax season, the answer may prove even more important. Like many questions posed to the IRS, the answer varies depending on the circumstances. There is more than one definition involved.

Even though dependent exemptions disappeared for the 2018 tax year, other credits may be available for those with dependents. Whether an individual in a Massachusetts resident's life fits into the definition could mean saving money on taxes. Thus, whether a child or relative falls under the definition of a dependent is a crucial question.

Before getting into other qualifying factors, the child or relative must meet certain citizenship requirements, not be filing a joint return with a spouse and not eligible to be claimed as a dependent by anyone else. Once those factors are out of the way, the individual must meet certain criteria depending on whether he or she is a relative or a child. For instance, a child must be under a certain age, related to and living with the claiming party for at least six months out of the year.

Other relatives must also not be claimed by anyone else and must have lived with the taxpayer the entire year. In addition, this non-child relative must have relied on the other party for financial support and made no more than a certain amount of money throughout the year. The IRS has a list outlining who qualifies as a relative that would not ordinarily live with a taxpayer, such as aging parents.

Not only could identifying dependents correctly lower an individual's tax liability, but it also protects the taxpayer from repercussions from the IRS. Falsely claiming dependents could result in an audit, criminal charges and other consequences depending on the situation. Instead, it would be better to figure out from the beginning whether a particular individual qualifies as a dependent.

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