Did you know that if someone else claims you as a dependent on their taxes, you might still need to file a tax return? It all depends on whether or not you meet one or some of the criteria in the five dependency tests — relationship, gross income, support, joint return and citizenship/residency. Let’s take a look and see if you qualify for filing a tax return as a dependent.

What is a Dependent?

A person classified as a dependent cannot claim an exemption worth $3,800 in 2012 on their tax return; subsequently, the person who claims the dependent can claim this exemption on their tax return. This is a significant amount of tax savings up for grabs, so it’s important to know how the IRS defines a dependent. Aside from this, if you claim yourself, and someone else claims you as a dependent, then the IRS will eventually catch up with both of you—something you want to avoid.

A dependent can be a qualifying child, or a qualifying relative. In a nutshell, for parents to claim a child as a dependent:

  • The child must have lived in their home for more than half the year.
  • The parents must provide at least half of the child’s support.
  • The child must either be under 19 or a full-time student/under 24.

To meet the relationship test, you must be a relative or live in the person’s home for the entire year. To claim someone as a dependent, that person must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the year. There is an exception to this rule for certain adopted children.

When Do Dependents Have to File Taxes?

There are several reasons why you may still need to file a tax return even if you are claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. Kids will need to file taxes if they meet the 2012 income limits:

  • The amount of your earned income (salaries, wages, and other money you receive for work performed) is more than $5,950.
  • Unearned income (income such as interest, dividends, capital gains, unemployment compensation, taxable social security benefits, pensions, annuities, and distributions of unearned income from a trust) is more than $950.
  • And/or gross income is more than the larger of $950 or earned income plus $300.

You also may need to file a tax return if you meet one of the following four conditions:

  • You owe a special tax (see IRS Publication 501 for more information on this)
  • You/spouse if filing jointly received Archer MSA, Medicare Advantage, MSA, or health savings account distributions
  • You had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400
  • You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security and Medicare taxes.

For specifics, check out IRS Publication 501. For some dependent tips from the IRS, see IRS Six Important FAQs about Dependents.

Tip: If you are a dependent of another person, you cannot claim any dependents on your own return.

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