Can I Claim My Boyfriend or Girlfriend as a Dependent?

Shot of a young couple going through paperwork while using a laptop at home.
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The Internal Revenue Service requires you to pay taxes as you earn income. If you’re self-employed and you overpaid your quarterly taxes, or if you’re an employee and withheld too much from your paycheck, you will likely get a refund from the IRS. And if you’ve underpaid, you’ll have to pay the remaining balance by May 17, unless you file for an extension.

See: Tax Year Deadline Dates You Need To Know

Either way, people look for tax deductions and credits to either lower their balance or increase their refund. One rather obscure deduction: A boyfriend or girlfriend can be claimed as a dependent if they pass the same criteria used to determine if a child or relative can be claimed as a dependent.

If you’re asking yourself, “Can I claim my girlfriend as a dependent?” read on to learn the following about the IRS, domestic partners and dependents:

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What Are the Benefits of Claiming a Dependent?

In the past, claiming a dependent on your tax return entitled you to a tax exemption. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, you can no longer claim a personal exemption for yourself, your spouse or dependents, according to the IRS. While you can no longer use a dependent to reduce your taxable income, you can receive up to $500 in tax credits for each qualifying dependent who is not a child and up to $2,000 for dependent children that you claim on your tax return.

Learn: Only 18% of Americans Believe Their Tax Dollars Are Being Spent the Right Way

Can I Claim My Girlfriend or Boyfriend as a Dependent?

The IRS has a strict set of rules regarding whether you can claim your partner as a dependent. You’ll need to provide the IRS with information about your relationship with this person, the amount of support you provide and other details. IRS rules for dependency only apply to qualifying children or qualifying relatives, so if your boyfriend or girlfriend can’t pass all of the following qualifying relative test questions, you will not be able to make the dependent claim on your taxes.

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Also See: Is Child Support Tax Deductible?

Can I Claim My Partner’s Children as Dependents?

According to the IRS, you can only claim someone as a dependent if they are either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative. Read on to find out if you can claim your partner as a dependent, but either way, you won’t be able to claim their children since they aren’t your child or relative.

Parents, Don’t Miss: 3 Tax Credits Every Parent Should Know

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When Can You Claim a Dependent?

Whether you’re entitled to a tax refund or not, you should always educate yourself with the laws related to tax breaks — especially the rules of claiming a dependent. Filing correctly with the right knowledge can result in a higher refund for you to spend or a lower tax bill. Filing incorrectly can cause the IRS to delay processing your tax return, which could mean that you won’t get your refund as soon as you expect.

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The IRS sets forth the following criteria to determine if you can claim someone as a dependent:

1. You’re Living Together

Having someone stay at your home for a few weeks won’t qualify them as a dependent. Your girlfriend or boyfriend has to be living with you for at least one calendar year to be considered a dependent. If you live in a state that prohibits cohabitation, you will not be able to claim your unmarried partner as a dependent.

Learn: 9 Tax Tips Every Married Couple Must Know

2. You Provide More Than 50% Support

As the word “dependent” implies, the person you’re trying to claim on your tax return has to rely on you for support. If you’re paying for more than half of your partner’s living expenses, medical care, education and any other expenses, you might be able to claim them as a dependent. Keep track of any bills you pay for your partner throughout the year so you can prove that you’re supporting them. For example, keep documentation like medical bills and receipts for rent or mortgage payments.

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3. They Earned Less Than $4,200

Your partner has to really need your help. If he or she earned more than $4,200 in gross income during a calendar year, you won’t be able to claim them as a dependent. $4,200 is not much, but that’s the threshold set by the IRS.

If your partner earned money from a part-time job or they reported a steady income on their tax return, IRS standards dictate that they were able to take care of themselves financially. That means that you won’t be able to claim them as a dependent, even if they meet the other criteria of living with you and relying on you to pay their bills.

Start Off Right: The Complete Guide To Filling Out Your W-4 Form

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When You Can’t Claim a Dependent

Even if your significant other meets all of the above requirements, certain circumstances could disqualify you from claiming them as a dependent. You won’t be able to claim your boyfriend or girlfriend as a dependent if any of the following are true:

1. Someone Else Is Claiming Them

If your partner’s parent, aunt, uncle or any other family member is claiming them as a dependent on their tax return, you won’t be eligible to claim them as a dependent. The IRS will only allow a claim from a single taxpayer who can prove that the individual is a dependent in the household.

Find Out: The Average IRS Tax Refund Amount

2. They’re Not a Citizen or Resident

You cannot claim your partner as a dependent if they aren’t a U.S. citizen, resident or national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico. If your significant other is in the U.S. on a temporary visa stay and is applying for residency or citizenship, you’ll have to wait until their status changes before you can claim them as a dependent on your tax return.

3. You’re Not Required To File a Return

You can’t claim a relative or any other person as a dependent if you aren’t required to file a tax return. If the only reason you’re filing is to get money back from the IRS, you won’t be able to claim your partner as a dependent.

Find Out Why: A Tiny Tax Refund Could Be the Best Thing To Happen To Your Finances

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For Tax Purposes, Is It Better To Get Married?

There are advantages and disadvantages to filing a joint return with a spouse.

For example, by filing together, you’re entitled to a higher standard deduction. You can also share your partner’s business losses if necessary.

On the other hand, you will have to choose between itemizing your deductions or accepting the standard deduction, which might put you in a worse position if one of you earns a significant income and the other doesn’t. Also, if there’s ever a tax liability that results in a tax lien, you’ll both be liable and it will hurt both of your credit reports.

You should talk to a financial planner before you decide to file jointly. An experienced advisor can review your income and expenses to ensure that you haven’t structured your financials in a way that will hurt you when tax time comes around.

Related: Taxes Have Changed for Divorced Parents — Here’s What You Need To Know

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A Final Word on Claiming Your Partner as a Dependent

No matter how long you’ve been with your partner or how much you’re supporting them financially, you can’t claim them as a dependent unless your partner passes the qualifying relative test. Take a close look at the qualifiers to determine whether you’re eligible to get a tax credit, which might significantly reduce your tax burden.

Don’t Miss: Most Popular Things To Do With Your Tax Refund — and How To Do It Smarter

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About the Author

Sabah Karimi is an award-winning writer with more than 10 years of experience writing about personal finance, lifestyle topics, and consumer trends. Her work has appeared on U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, MSN, and other mainstream publications. She was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and CBS News about her work as a freelance writer early in her career and now works with a variety of clients.
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