Tax Rules for Claiming Dependents

Which criteria define a qualifying child or relative?

To claim a qualifying child on your 2008 return:

• The person 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 been under age 19 at the end of 2008. (If the child is permanently disabled, age tests do not apply.)

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

• If he or she was a full-time student, the child must have been under the age of 24 by the end of 2008.

• The child must have lived with you for more than half the year. (Temporary absences including being away at school don’t count.)

• The child must not have provided more than half of his or her own financial support.

To claim a qualifying relative:

• The person’s gross income for 2008 must be less than $3,500 and you must have provided more than half of his for her support.

• If the person is unrelated, he or she must also have lived with you all year long as a member of your household.

• If the dependent to be claimed is related to you, he or she does not have to live with you, but must be related to you in one of the following ways:

  • Your child, stepchild, foster child, or a descendant of any of them (for example, your grandchild) who does not qualify as a qualifying child.
  • Your brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, or stepsister.
  • Your father, mother, grandparent, or other direct ancestor, but not foster parent.
  • Your stepfather or stepmother.
  • A niece or nephew.
  • An uncle or aunt.
  • Your son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law.

You can read all the rules in IRS Publication 501: Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.

For More Tax Advice: Visit Out Tax Savings Center

Kevin McCormally
Chief Content Officer, Kiplinger Washington Editors
McCormally retired in 2018 after more than 40 years at Kiplinger. He joined Kiplinger in 1977 as a reporter specializing in taxes, retirement, credit and other personal finance issues. He is the author and editor of many books, helped develop and improve popular tax-preparation software programs, and has written and appeared in several educational videos. In 2005, he was named Editorial Director of The Kiplinger Washington Editors, responsible for overseeing all of our publications and Web site. At the time, Editor in Chief Knight Kiplinger called McCormally "the watchdog of editorial quality, integrity and fairness in all that we do." In 2015, Kevin was named Chief Content Officer and Senior Vice President.