If Married Filing Separately: Who Claims Dependents?

One of the most common questions that arise when filing taxes, especially if you're married, is who gets to claim dependents.

Married Filing Separately

It can be confusing, especially if you're filing separately.

In this article, we will discuss the rules and regulations around claiming dependents when you're married and filing separately.

Table of Contents

What is a dependent?

Before we dive into the details, let's first define what a dependent is. A dependent is a person who relies on another person for financial support. This can be a child, a parent, a sibling, or any other individual who meets specific criteria set by the IRS.

Who can claim a dependent when filing separately?

If you are married and filing separately, only one spouse can claim a dependent. The IRS has specific rules that determine who gets to claim the dependent. Generally, the spouse who has custody of the child for more than half of the year can claim the dependent.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if the custody agreement grants both parents equal time with the child, then the parent with the higher adjusted gross income (AGI) gets to claim the dependent.

If the custody agreement does not specify a custody arrangement, then the parent who has the child for more nights during the tax year gets to claim the dependent.

It's important to note that if you are filing separately, and your spouse claims the dependent, you cannot claim the same dependent on your tax return.

What are the benefits of claiming a dependent?

There are various benefits of claiming a dependent on your tax return, such as tax credits and deductions.

For example, claiming a dependent can make you eligible for the Child Tax Credit, which can reduce your tax liability by up to $2,000 per child.

Additionally, claiming a dependent can make you eligible for other tax benefits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

These credits can help reduce your tax bill and put more money back in your pocket.

What if you and your spouse cannot agree on who gets to claim the dependent?

If you and your spouse cannot agree on who gets to claim the dependent, the IRS has a tiebreaker rule. According to this rule, the dependent goes to the parent with whom the child spent the most time during the tax year.

If the child spends an equal amount of time with both parents, then the parent with the higher AGI gets to claim the dependent.

In some cases, a parent may be able to waive their right to claim the dependent. For instance, if the non-custodial parent waives their right to claim the dependent, then the custodial parent can claim the dependent.

Only one spouse can claim a dependent

If you're married and filing separately, only one spouse can claim a dependent.

The spouse who has custody of the child for more than half of the year can claim the dependent, unless there is a custody agreement that grants both parents equal time with the child.

Claiming a dependent can provide various tax benefits, such as tax credits and deductions. If you and your spouse cannot agree on who gets to claim the dependent, the IRS has a tiebreaker rule that determines who gets to claim the dependent.

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