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

Dependency Exemptions

Dependents

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.

Example

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.