Can I Claim My Child in College?

Your child has finally gone off to college and you want to know if you can still file that child on your federal tax return. That depends on if you meet a few of the requirements to claim them as a dependent.

  • If someone else is claiming you as a dependent on their tax return, you cannot claim any dependents on your own tax return. And, if you are married filing a joint return and your spouse can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return you cannot claim any dependents on your joint return either.


  • If your dependent is married and files a joint return, you cannot claim the dependent on your tax return, unless your dependent is filing a joint return only to claim a tax refund and there would be no tax liability for either your dependent or his or her spouse if they filed separate returns.


  • Your dependent must have been a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident, U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the tax year. You cannot claim an exemption for a dependent who is a nonresident alien for the entire year.

If you meet any of the above tests you must then determine if the child quliies as a dependent.

There are 5 test that must be met in order to be a qualifying child.

  • The child must be your son or daughter, stepchild, or eligible foster child. Other relationships that would qualify are if the child is your brother or sister, half brother or half sister, stepbrother or stepsister, or any of their descendants (your grandchildren or great grandchildren, for example).
  • The child must be under age 19 at the end of the year, or under age 24 if the child is a full-time student. So, your college student could meet this qualification. A child who is permanently and totally disabled is not subject to any age limit.
  • The child must have lived with you for more than half the year, except for temporary absences. Education qualifies as a temporary absence, so if your dependent is away at college during more than half the year, he or she could still qualify under this test.
  •  The child must not have provided more than half of his or her own support for the year. Scholarships received by a full-time student are not taken into consideration as support provided by the student, so this would not disqualify the child as your dependent under the support test. But proceeds from a student loan would count as support provided by the student, if the loan is taken out in the student’s name. If the parents take out a Federal PLUS loan, for example, to pay college expenses, the proceeds from the loan are considered support provided by the parents.
  • If the child meets the tests as a qualifying child for more than one person, you must be the person entitled to claim the child as a dependent. This could be the case of a child of divorced or separated parents, or when there is a multiple support agreement.
Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 3:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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