Taxes 2023: Can I Claim My Partner as a Dependent?

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Each tax season, people look for tax deductions and credits to either lower their balance or increase their refund. One rather obscure deduction: A partner 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 partner as a dependent?” read on to learn the following about the IRS, domestic partners and adult dependents.

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.

Can I Claim My Partner 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 partner can’t pass all of the following qualifying relative test questions, you will not be able to make the dependent claim on your taxes.

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.

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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.

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 partner has to be living with you for the full 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.

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.

3. They Earned Less Than $4,200

Your partner has to really need your help. If they earned more than $4,400 in gross income during a calendar year for tax year 2022, you won’t be able to claim them as a dependent.

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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.

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.

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, in certain cases, 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.

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3. They’re Married

In most cases, you can’t claim a relative or any other person as a dependent if they’re legally married and file a joint tax return with their spouse. However, you can claim your married partner as a dependent if they and their spouse weren’t required to file a tax return and only did so to get a refund, according to Nolo. 

For Tax Purposes, Is It Better To Get Married?

There are tax advantages and disadvantages to being married, especially if you file a joint return with a spouse.

For example, filing together could reduce your tax bracket if one of you earns substantially more than the other. You can also share your partner’s business losses if necessary. In addition, both spouses can contribute to an IRA, even if one spouse is unemployed.

On the other hand, each of you is responsible for the other’s tax reporting and liability, so if one fudges numbers, the other could be held liable.If you both earn about the same amount of money, you could be subject to the “marriage penalty.” And in the event you have medical expenses to deduct, it’ll be harder to claim them if your adjusted gross income is high.

You should talk to a financial planner if you have questions about the best filing status for your tax situation. 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.

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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.

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