Who to claim as a dependent on a tax return can range from being simple to very complicated. The IRS has tests that must be met for you to claim an individual as a dependent. For married parents claiming their children, it can be relatively simple. However, other situations, such as divorced parents, single parents, living with a grandparent, and other unusual circumstances can cloud who is eligible to claim a child. You must have the correct filing status. What do I do if the electronic filing is rejected because my dependent was claimed on another tax return? What tax credits can I claim for my dependents? Can I claim my child going to college? This episode will help to clear up the waters and answer these questions.
Several times during tax season we electronically file a client’s tax return, only to learn that one of the client’s legal dependents was claimed falsely on another tax return. Sometimes this is due to identity theft, which will be discussed in another blog. More often this situation arises because an ex-spouse, a grandparent, or another ineligible family member has the child’s information and claims the child, even though they did not have the child for at least 6 months or provide 50% or more of the child’s support. Unfortunately, many tax preparers simply tell their clients that there is nothing that can be done since the child has already been claimed. Such a statement is wrong and misleading, because there are procedures we can take that will allow you to get the tax credits you deserve as the custodial parent.
How can you get the tax credits for your qualified child? When the taxpayer enters our office or schedules a video conference with this problem we discuss with them how the problem can be fixed. We suggest the taxpayer gather documents that support their claiming the child. Once these documents are gathered, we attach the documents to the prepared tax return. We have the taxpayer then mail the tax return to the proper IRS office.
In about 6 to 8 weeks the taxpayer receives their refund from the IRS. Occasionally, the IRS may request additional documents to support your claiming the child. The IRS then will allow your claiming the child and give you the tax credits. Then the IRS will contact the taxpayer who falsely claimed the child and request payment back of any tax benefits received from claiming a child they were not eligible to claim.
There is no race to see who can claim the child first. The tax law plainly states that the qualified taxpayer is the party that can properly and legally claim a child on a tax return.
Many tax preparers misinterpret court orders and tax law when preparing tax returns. Since 2009 the IRS has taken the position that a county court cannot tell the IRS how exemptions are claimed on a tax return. Attaching copies of a divorce decree are not sufficient to claim the exemption on a child who does not live with you.
Basicly, the parent who has the child in their home for more than half the year and provides 50% or more of the support (this does not include child support) is the parent that can claim the child as a dependent. The dependency can be released to the noncustodial parent if the custodial parent signs form 8332. The noncustodial parent must then attached form 8332 to his tax return. If you are a noncustodial parent, make sure to have the custodial parent sign 8332. If form 8332 is not attached to your return, it can cost you later.
One area where I commonly see mistakes for custodial parents is with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The noncustodial parent is not eligible to claim the EITC, since their child did not reside in their home 6 months or more. Even if the child dependency is released to the noncustodial parent, the custodial parent is eligible to claim EITC if they have earned income. The custodial parent may even be eligible to claim head-of-household filing status. In cases where the parents have joint custody, there are many factors that the tax preparer has to examine before determining who is eligible for the EITC.
I always request a copy of the court documents.