Most taxpayers can claim an exemption for themselves and reduce their taxable income on their tax return. They may also be able to claim an exemption for each of their dependents. Each exemption normally allows them to deduct $4,050 on their 2016 tax return. Here are seven key points to keep in mind on dependents and exemptions:
1. Personal Exemptions. Taxpayers can usually claim exemptions for themselves and their spouses on a jointly filed tax return. For married taxpayers filing separate returns, an exemption can only be claimed for a spouse if that spouse:
- Had no gross income,
- Is not filing a tax return, and
- Was not the dependent of another taxpayer.
2. Exemptions for Dependents. A dependent is either a child or a relative who meets a set of tests. Taxpayers can normally claim dependents as exemptions. List a Social Security number for each dependent. For more on these rules, see IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information.
3. No Exemption on Dependent’s Return. If a taxpayer can claim a person as a dependent, then that dependent cannot claim a personal exemption on his or her own tax return. This is true even if no one claims that person on a tax return.
4. Dependents May Have to File. A dependent may have to file a tax return. This depends on certain factors like total income, whether they are married and if they owe certain taxes.
5. Exemption Phase-Out. Taxpayers earning above a certain amount will lose part or all the $4,050 exemption. See Publication 501 for details.
6. E-file Your Tax Return. The IRS urges taxpayers to kick the paper habit. IRS E-file options include free Volunteer Assistance, IRS Free File, commercial software and professional assistance.
7. Try the IRS Online Tool. Get questions answered by using the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov.
Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.