The IRS rules regarding exemptions and dependents affect many, if not most, taxpayers. Here are some facts about exemptions and dependents that should help you file your tax return this year.
Exemptions are fixed amounts that reduce the amount of your income that is subject to income tax, and they are on a per-person basis. There are two types of exemptions- personal exemptions and exemptions for dependents. These two types of exemptions are for the same amount per person, but different rules apply in order to be able to claim the exemptions. On your 2011 tax return, you can deduct $3,700 for each exemption.
Your spouse can never be counted as your dependent. On a joint return, you may claim one exemption for yourself and one for your spouse. If you’re filing a separate return, you may claim the exemption for your spouse only if they had no gross income, are not filing a joint return, and were not the dependent of another taxpayer.
You generally can take an exemption for each of your dependents. A dependent is your qualifying child or qualifying relative. You must list the Social Security number of any dependent for whom you claim an exemption.
Even if someone else claims you as a dependent, you may still be required to file your own tax return. Whether you must file a return depends on several factors including the amount of your unearned, earned or gross income, your marital status and any special taxes you owe. Consult the IRS website or a tax professional to see if you must file.
If you are being claimed as a dependent, you cannot claim an exemption. If someone such as your parent is claiming you as a dependent, you may not claim your personal exemption on your own tax return.
Some people cannot be claimed as your dependent. Generally, you may not claim a married person as a dependent if they file a joint return with their spouse. Also, in order to claim someone as a dependent, he or she must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the year. There is an exception to this rule for certain adopted children. See IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information for additional tests to determine who can be claimed as a dependent.
For more information on exemptions, dependents and whether you or your dependent needs to file a tax return, see IRS Publication 501 on the IRS website.
Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional