Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury
Level Basic Advanced Military International

Dependency Exemptions


Initial Tests (continued)

Dependent Taxpayer Test

A taxpayer (or taxpayer's spouse, if filing a joint return) who can be claimed as a dependent by someone else cannot claim anyone as a dependent on his or her own tax return. Part I of the intake and interview sheet asks, "Can anyone claim you or your spouse on their tax return?" If taxpayers answer yes, they cannot claim a dependent. Use your interview skills because some taxpayers, particularly students, may not be sure of the answer to this question.

Joint Return Test

A married person who files a joint return cannot be claimed as a dependent unless that joint return is only a claim for a refund and there would be no tax liability for either spouse on separate returns.


Ruth, who had no income, got married in November of the tax year. Ruth's husband had $30,000 income and they claimed two personal exemptions on their return. Ruth's father supported her and paid for the wedding, but he cannot claim her as a dependent because she is filing a joint return with her husband. While they are filing a return to claim a refund of taxes withheld, Ruth's husband would have tax liability if he filed a separate return.