What are tax exemptions and am I eligible? - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

What are tax exemptions and am I eligible?

Exemptions reduce your taxable income. Generally, you can deduct $3,050 for each exemption you claim in 2003. If you are entitled to two exemptions for 2003, you would deduct $6,100 ($3,050 × 2). But you may lose the benefit of part or all of your exemptions if your adjusted gross income is above a certain amount. See Phaseout of Exemptions, later.

There are two types of exemptions: personal exemptions and exemptions for dependents. While these are both worth the same amount, different rules, discussed later, apply to each type.

You usually can claim exemptions for yourself, your spouse, and each person you can claim as a dependent. If you are entitled to claim an exemption for a dependent (such as your child), that dependent cannot claim a personal exemption on his or her own tax return.

HOW TO CLAIM EXEMPTIONS

How you claim an exemption on your tax return depends on which form you file.

Form 1040EZ filers. If you file Form 1040EZ, the exemption amount is combined with the standard deduction and entered on line 5.

Form 1040A filers. If you file Form 1040A, complete lines 6a through 6d. The total number of exemptions you can claim is the total in the box on line 6d. Also complete line 24 by multiplying the number in the box on line 6d by $3,050.

Form 1040 filers. If you file Form 1040, complete lines 6a through 6d. On line 38, multiply the total exemptions shown in the box on line 6d by $3,050 and enter the result. If your adjusted gross income is more than $104,625, see Phaseout of Exemptions, later.

U.S. CITIZEN OR RESIDENT

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico, you may qualify for any of the exemptions discussed here.

Nonresident aliens. Generally, if you are a nonresident alien (other than a resident of Canada or Mexico, or certain residents of India, Japan, or Korea), you can qualify for only one personal exemption for yourself. You cannot claim exemptions for a spouse or dependents.

These restrictions do not apply if you are a nonresident alien married to a citizen or resident of the United States and have chosen to be treated as a resident of the United States.

Dual-status taxpayers. If you have been both a nonresident alien and a resident alien in the same tax year, you should get Publication 519 for information on determining your exemptions.

PERSONAL EXEMPTIONS

You are generally allowed one exemption for yourself and, if you are married, one exemption for your spouse. These are called personal exemptions.

Your Own Exemption
You can take one exemption for yourself unless you can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.

Single persons. If another taxpayer is entitled to claim you as a dependent, you cannot take an exemption for yourself. This is true even if the other taxpayer does not actually claim your exemption.

Married persons. If you file a joint return, you can take your own exemption. If you file a separate return, you can take your own exemption only if another taxpayer is not entitled to claim you as a dependent.

Your Spouse's Exemption
Your spouse is never considered your dependent. You may be able to take one exemption for your spouse only because you are married.

Joint return. On a joint return, you can claim one exemption for yourself and one for your spouse.

Separate return. If you file a separate return, you can claim the exemption for your spouse only if your spouse had no gross income and was not the dependent of another taxpayer. This is true even if the other taxpayer does not actually claim your spouse's exemption. This is also true if your spouse is a nonresident alien.

Death of spouse. If your spouse died during the year, you can generally claim your spouse's exemption under the rules just explained in Joint return and Separate return.

If you remarried during the year, you cannot take an exemption for your deceased spouse.

If you are a surviving spouse without gross income and you remarry in the year your spouse died, you can be claimed as an exemption on both the final separate return of your deceased spouse and the separate return of your new spouse for that year. If you file a joint return with your new spouse, you can be claimed as an exemption only on that return.

Divorced or separated spouse. If you obtained a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance by the end of the year, you cannot take your former spouse's exemption. This rule applies even if you provided all of your former spouse's support.

Exemptions for Dependents
You are allowed one exemption for each person you can claim as a dependent.

To claim the exemption for a dependent, you must meet all five of the dependency tests discussed later. You can claim an exemption for your dependent even if your dependent files a return. But that dependent cannot claim his or her personal exemption if you are entitled to do so. However, see Joint Return Test, later.

Kidnapped children. You may be eligible to claim the exemption for a child even if the child has been kidnapped. Both of the following statements must be true.

1.       The child must be presumed by law enforcement authorities to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a member of your family or the child's family.

  1. The child must have qualified as your dependent for the part of the year before the kidnapping.

If both statements are true, the child is treated as your dependent and you qualify to claim the exemption.

This treatment applies for all years that the child remains kidnapped. However, the last year this treatment can apply is the earlier of:

  1. The year the child is determined to be dead, or

  2. The year the child would have reached age 18.

Child born alive. If your child was born alive during the year, and the dependency tests are met, you can claim the exemption. This is true even if the child lived only for a moment. State or local law must treat the child as having been born alive. There must be proof of a live birth shown by an official document, such as a birth certificate.

Stillborn child. You cannot claim an exemption for a stillborn child.

Death of dependent. If your dependent died during the year and otherwise met the dependency tests, you can claim the exemption for your dependent.

Example. Your dependent mother died on January 15. The five dependency tests are met. You can claim the exemption for her on your return.

Housekeepers, maids, or servants. If these people work for you, you cannot claim exemptions for them.

Figure A. Can You Claim an Exemption for a Dependent?

Child tax credit. You may be entitled to a child tax credit for each of your qualifying children for whom you can claim an exemption. For more information, see the instructions in your tax forms package.

DEPENDENCY TESTS

The following five tests must be met for you to claim an exemption for a dependent.

1. Member of Household or Relationship Test.
2. Citizen or Resident Test.
3. Joint Return Test.
4. Gross Income Test.
5. Support Test.

1. Member of Household or Relationship Test

To meet this test, a person must either:

      Live with you for the entire year as a member of your household, or

      Be related to you in one of the ways listed later under Relatives who do not have to live with you.

If at any time during the year the person was your spouse, that person cannot be your dependent. However, see Personal Exemptions, earlier.

Temporary absences. A person lives with you as a member of your household even if either (or both) of you are temporarily absent due to special circumstances. Temporary absences due to special circumstances include absences because of illness, education, business, vacation, or military service.

If the person is placed in a nursing home for an indefinite period of time to receive constant medical care, the absence is considered temporary.

Death or birth. A person who died during the year, but was a member of your household until death, will meet the member of household test. The same is true for a child who was born during the year and was a member of your household for the rest of the year. The test is also met if a child would have been a member except for any required hospital stay following birth.

Local law violated. A person does not meet the member of household test if at any time during your tax year the relationship between you and that person violates local law.

Relatives who do not have to live with you. A person related to you in any of the following ways does not have to live with you for the entire year as a member of your household to meet this test.

      Your child, grandchild, great grandchild, etc. (a legally adopted child is considered your child).

      Your stepchild.

      Your brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, or stepsister.

      Your parent, grandparent, or other direct ancestor, but not foster parent.

      Your stepfather or stepmother.

      A brother or sister of your father or mother.

      A son or daughter of your brother or sister.

      Your father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law.

Any of these relationships that were established by marriage are not ended by death or divorce.

Adoption. Even if your adoption of a child is not yet final, the child is considered to be your child if he or she was placed with you for legal adoption by an authorized placement agency. Also, the child must have been a member of your household. An authorized placement agency includes any person authorized by state law to place children for legal adoption. If the child was not placed with you by an authorized placement agency, the child will meet this test only if he or she was a member of your household for your entire tax year.

Foster child. A foster child must live with you as a member of your household for the entire year to qualify as your dependent. For this test, a foster child is one who is in your care that you care for as your own child. It does not matter how the child became a member of the household.

Cousin. You can claim an exemption for your cousin only if he or she lives with you as a member of your household for the entire year. A cousin is a descendant of a brother or sister of your father or mother.

Joint return. If you file a joint return, you do not need to show that a person is related to both you and your spouse. You also do not need to show that a person is related to the spouse who provides support.

For example, your spouse's uncle who receives more than half of his support from you may be your dependent, even though he does not live with you. However, if you and your spouse file separate returns, your spouse's uncle can be your dependent only if he is a member of your household and lives with you for your entire tax year.

2. Citizen or Resident Test

To meet the citizen or resident test, a person must be a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico, for some part of the calendar year in which your tax year begins.

Children's place of residence. Children usually are citizens or residents of the country of their parents.

If you were a U.S. citizen when your child was born, the child may be a U.S. citizen although the other parent was a nonresident alien and the child was born in a foreign country. If so, and the other dependency tests are met, you can take the exemption. It does not matter if the child lives abroad with the nonresident alien parent.

If you are a U.S. citizen who has legally adopted a child who is not a U.S. citizen or resident, and the other dependency tests are met, you can take the exemption if your home is the child's main home and the child is a member of your household for your entire tax year.

Foreign students' place of residence. Foreign students brought to this country under a qualified international education exchange program and placed in American homes for a temporary period generally are not U.S. residents and do not meet the citizen or resident test. You cannot claim an exemption for them. However, if you provided a home for a foreign student, you may be able to take a charitable contribution deduction.

3. Joint Return Test

Even if the other dependency tests are met, you are generally not allowed an exemption for your dependent if he or she files a joint return.

Example. You supported your daughter for the entire year while her husband was in the Armed Forces. The couple files a joint return. Even though all the other tests are met, you cannot take an exemption for your daughter.

Exception. The joint return test does not apply if a joint return is filed by the dependent and his or her spouse merely as a claim for refund and no tax liability would exist for either spouse on separate returns.

Example. Your son and his wife each had less than $2,000 of wages and no unearned income. Neither is required to file a tax return. Taxes were taken out of their pay, so they filed a joint return to get a refund. You are allowed to take exemptions for your son and daughter-in-law if the other dependency tests are met.

4. Gross Income Test

Generally, you cannot take an exemption for a dependent if that person had gross income of $3,050 or more for 2003. This test does not apply if the person is your child and is either:

  1. Under age 19 at the end of the year, or

  2. A student under age 24 at the end of the year.

The exceptions for children under age 19 and students under age 24 are discussed in detail later.

If you file on a fiscal year basis, the gross income test applies to the calendar year in which your fiscal year begins.

Gross income defined. All income in the form of money, property, and services that is not exempt from tax is gross income.

In a manufacturing, merchandising, or mining business, gross income is the total net sales minus the cost of goods sold, plus any miscellaneous income from the business.

Gross receipts from rental property are gross income. Do not deduct taxes, repairs, etc., to determine the gross income from rental property.

Gross income includes a partner's share of the gross (not a share of the net) partnership income.

Gross income also includes all unemployment compensation and certain scholarship and fellowship grants. Scholarships received by degree candidates that are used for tuition, fees, supplies, books, and equipment required for particular courses are not included in gross income.

Tax-exempt income, such as certain social security payments, is not included in gross income.

Disabled dependents. For this gross income test, gross income does not include income received by a permanently and totally disabled individual for services performed at a sheltered workshop. The availability of medical care must be the main reason the individual is at the workshop. Also, the income must come solely from activities at the workshop that are incident to this medical care. A sheltered workshop is a school operated by certain tax-exempt organizations, or by a state, a U.S. possession, a political subdivision of a state or possession, the United States, or the District of Columbia, that provides special instruction or training designed to alleviate the disability of the individual.

Child defined. For purposes of the gross income test, your child is your son, stepson, daughter, stepdaughter, a legally adopted child, or a child who was placed with you by an authorized placement agency for your legal adoption. A foster child who was a member of your household for your entire tax year is also considered your child.

Child under age 19. If your child is under 19 at the end of the year, the gross income test does not apply. Your child can have any amount of income and you can still claim an exemption if the other dependency tests, including the support test, are met.

Example. Marie, 18, earned $4,000. Her father provided more than half her support. Because Marie is under 19, the gross income test does not apply. If the other dependency tests were met, Marie's father can claim an exemption for her.

Student under age 24. The gross income test does not apply if your child is a student who is under age 24 at the end of the calendar year. The other dependency tests must still be met.

Student defined. To qualify as a student, your child must be, during some part of each of five calendar months during the calendar year (not necessarily consecutive):

  1. A full-time student at a school that has a regular teaching staff, course of study, and regularly enrolled body of students in attendance, or

  2. A student taking a full-time, on-farm training course given by a school described in (1) above or a state, county, or local government.

Full-time student defined. A full-time student is a person who is enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance.

School defined. The term "school" includes elementary schools, junior and senior high schools, colleges, universities, and technical, trade, and mechanical schools. It does not include on-the-job training courses, correspondence schools, and night schools.

Example. James, 22, attends college as a full-time student. During the summer, James earned $4,000. If the other dependency tests are met, his parents can take the exemption for James.

Vocational high school students. People who work on "co-op" jobs in private industry as a part of the school's prescribed course of classroom and practical training are considered full-time students.

Night school. Your child is not a full-time student while attending school only at night. However, full-time attendance at a school can include some attendance at night as part of a full-time course of study.

5. Support Test

Generally, you must provide more than half of a person's total support during the calendar year to meet the support test. However, there are special rules that apply in the following two situations.

  1. Two or more persons provide support, but no one person provides more than half of a person's total support. See Multiple Support Agreement, later.

  2. The person supported is the child of divorced or separated parents. See Support Test for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents, later.

You figure whether you have provided more than half of a person's total support by comparing the amount you contributed to that person's support with the entire amount of support that person received from all sources. This includes support the person provided from his or her own funds.

Table 5. Worksheet for Determining Support

You may find Table 5 helpful in figuring whether you provided more than half of a person's support.

Person's own funds not used for support. A person's own funds are not support unless they are actually spent for support.

Example. Your mother received $2,400 in social security benefits and $300 in interest. She paid $2,000 for lodging and $400 for recreation.

Even though your mother received a total of $2,700, she spent only $2,400 for her own support. If you spent more than $2,400 for her support and no other support was received, you have provided more than half of her support.

Child's wages used for own support. You cannot include in your contribution to your child's support any support that is paid for by the child with the child's own wages, even if you paid the wages.

Year support is provided. The year you provide the support is the year you pay for it, even if you do so with borrowed money that you repay in a later year.

If you use a fiscal year to report your income, you must provide more than half of the dependent's support for the calendar year in which your fiscal year begins.

Armed Forces dependency allotments. The part of the allotment contributed by the government and the part taken out of your military pay are both considered provided by you in figuring whether you provide more than half of the support. If your allotment is used to support persons other than those you name, you can take the exemptions for them if they otherwise qualify.

Example. You are in the Armed Forces. You authorize an allotment for your widowed mother that she uses to support herself and your sister. If the allotment provides more than half of their support, you can take an exemption for each of them, if they otherwise qualify, even though you authorize the allotment only for your mother.

Tax-exempt military quarters allowances. These allowances are treated the same way as dependency allotments in figuring support. The allotment of pay and the tax-exempt basic allowance for quarters are both considered as provided by you for support.

Tax-exempt income. In figuring a person's total support, include tax-exempt income, savings, and borrowed amounts used to support that person. Tax-exempt income includes certain social security benefits, welfare benefits, nontaxable life insurance proceeds, Armed Forces family allotments, nontaxable pensions, and tax-exempt interest.

Example 1. You provide $4,000 toward your mother's support during the year. She has earned income of $600, nontaxable social security benefit payments of $4,800, and tax-exempt interest of $200. She uses all these for her support. You cannot claim an exemption for your mother because the $4,000 you provide is not more than half of her total support of $9,600.

Example 2. Your daughter takes out a student loan of $2,500 and uses it to pay her college tuition. She is personally responsible for the loan. You provide $2,000 toward her total support. You cannot claim an exemption for your daughter because you provide less than half of her support.

Social security benefit payments. If a husband and wife each receive payments that are paid by one check made out to both of them, half of the total paid is considered to be for the support of each spouse, unless they can show otherwise.

If a child receives social security benefits and uses them toward his or her own support, the payments are considered as provided by the child.

Support provided by the state (welfare, food stamps, housing, etc.). Benefits provided by the state to a needy person generally are considered to be used for support. However, payments based on the needs of the recipient will not be considered as used entirely for that person's support if it is shown that part of the payments were not used for that purpose.

Foster care payments and expenses. Payments you receive for the support of a foster child from a child placement agency are considered support provided by the agency. Similarly, payments you receive for the support of a foster child from a state or county are considered support provided by the state or county.

If you are not in the trade or business of providing foster care and your unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses in caring for a foster child were mainly to benefit an organization qualified to receive deductible charitable contributions, the expenses are deductible as charitable contributions, but are not considered support you provided. If your unreimbursed expenses are not deductible as charitable contributions, they are considered support you provided.

If you are in the trade or business of providing foster care, your unreimbursed expenses are not considered support provided by you.

Example. Lauren, a foster child, lived with Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The Smiths cared for Lauren because they wanted to adopt her, not as a trade or business or to benefit the agency that placed her in their home. The Smiths' unreimbursed expenses are not deductible as charitable contributions, but are considered support they provided for Lauren.

Home for the aged. If you make a lump-sum advance payment to a home for the aged to take care of your relative for life and the payment is based on that person's life expectancy, the amount of support you provide each year is the lump-sum payment divided by the relative's life expectancy. The amount of support you provide also includes any other amounts that you provided during the year.

Total Support

To figure if you provided more than half of the support of a person, you must first determine the total support provided for that person. Total support includes amounts spent to provide food, lodging, clothing, education, medical and dental care, recreation, transportation, and similar necessities.

Generally, the amount of an item of support is the amount of the expense incurred in providing that item. For lodging, the amount of support is the fair rental value of the lodging.

Expenses that are not directly related to any one member of a household, such as the cost of food for the household, must be divided among the members of the household.

Example 1. Grace Brown, mother of Mary Miller, lives with Frank and Mary Miller and their two children. Grace gets a fully taxable pension of $1,500, which she spends for clothing and recreation. Grace has no other income. Frank and Mary's total food expense for the household is $5,000. They pay Grace's medical and drug expenses of $300. The fair rental value of the lodging provided for Grace is $960 a year, based on the cost of similar rooming facilities. Figure Grace's total support as follows:

Fair rental value of lodging  $ 960 
Clothing and recreation  1,500 
Medical expenses  300 
Share of food (1/5 of $5,000)    1,000   
Total support   $3,760   

Because the support Frank and Mary provide ($960 lodging + $300 medical expenses + $1,000 food = $2,260) is more than half of Grace's $3,760 total support, and Grace meets the other dependency tests, they can claim an exemption for her.

Example 2. Your parents live with you, your spouse, and your two children in a house you own. The fair rental value of your parents' share of the lodging is $2,000 a year, which includes furnishings and utilities. Your father receives a nontaxable pension of $4,200, which he spends equally between your mother and himself for items of support such as clothing, transportation, and recreation. Your total food expense for the household is $6,000. Your heat and utility bills amount to $1,200. Your mother has hospital and medical expenses of $600, which you pay during the year. Figure your parents' total support as follows:

Support provided

Father 

Mother

Fair rental value of lodging

$1,000

$1,000

Pension spent for their support

$2,100

$2,100

Share of food (1/6 of $6,000)

$1,000

$1,000

Medical expenses for mother

 

$600

Parents' total support

$4,100

$4,700


You must apply the support test separately to each parent. You provide $2,000 ($1,000 lodging, $1,000 food) of your father's total support of $4,100 -- less than half. You provide $2,600 to your mother ($1,000 lodging, $1,000 food, $600 medical) -- more than half of her total support of $4,700. You meet the support test for your mother, but not your father. Heat and utility costs are included in the fair rental value of the lodging, so these are not considered separately.

Lodging defined. Lodging is the fair rental value of the room, apartment, or house in which the person lives. It includes a reasonable allowance for the use of furniture and appliances, and for heat and other utilities.

Fair rental value defined. This is the amount you could reasonably expect to receive from a stranger for the same kind of lodging. It is used in place of rent or taxes, interest, depreciation, paint, insurance, utilities, cost of furniture and appliances, etc. In some cases, fair rental value may be equal to the rent paid.

If you provide the total lodging, the amount of support you provide is the fair rental value of the room the person uses, or a share of the fair rental value of the entire dwelling if the person has use of your entire home. If you do not provide the total lodging, the total fair rental value must be divided depending on how much of the total lodging you provide. If you provide only a part and the person supplies the rest, the fair rental value must be divided between both of you according to the amount each provides.

Example. Your parents live rent free in a house you own. It has a fair rental value of $5,400 a year furnished, which includes a fair rental value of $3,600 for the house and $1,800 for the furniture. This does not include heat and utilities. The house is completely furnished with furniture belonging to your parents. You pay $600 for their utility bills. Utilities are not usually included in rent for houses in the area where your parents live. Therefore, you consider the total fair rental value of the lodging to be $6,000 ($3,600 fair rental value of the unfurnished house, $1,800 allowance for the furnishings provided by your parents, and $600 cost of utilities) of which you are considered to provide $4,200 ($3,600 + $600).

Person living in his or her own home. The total fair rental value of a person's home that he or she owns is considered support contributed by that person.

Living with someone rent free. If you live with a person rent free in his or her home, you must reduce the amount you provide for support by the fair rental value of lodging he or she provides you.

Property. Property provided as support is measured by its fair market value. Fair market value is the price that property would sell for on the open market. It is the price that would be agreed upon between a willing buyer and a willing seller, with neither being required to act, and both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.

Capital expenses. Capital items, such as furniture, appliances, and cars, that are bought for a person during the year can be included in total support under certain circumstances.

The following examples show when a capital item is or is not support.

Example 1. You buy a $200 power lawn mower for your 13-year-old child. The child is given the duty of keeping the lawn trimmed. Because a lawn mower is ordinarily an item you buy for personal and family reasons that benefits all members of the household, you cannot include the cost of the lawn mower in the support of your child.

Example 2. You buy a $150 television set as a birthday present for your 12-year-old child. The television set is placed in your child's bedroom. You can include the cost of the television set in the support of your child.

Example 3. You pay $5,000 for a car and register it in your name. You and your 17-year-old daughter use the car equally. Because you own the car and do not give it to your daughter but merely let her use it, you cannot include the cost of the car in your daughter's total support. However, you can include in your daughter's support your out-of-pocket expenses of operating the car for her benefit.

Example 4. Your 17-year-old son, using personal funds, buys a car for $4,500. You provide all the rest of your son's support -- $4,000. Since the car is bought and owned by your son, the car's fair market value ($4,500) must be included in his support. The $4,000 support you provide is less than half of his total support of $8,500. You cannot claim an exemption for your son.

Medical insurance premiums. Medical insurance premiums you pay, including premiums for supplementary Medicare coverage, are included in the support you provide.

Medical insurance benefits. Medical insurance benefits, including basic and supplementary Medicare benefits, are not part of support.

Tuition payments and allowances under the GI Bill. Amounts veterans receive under the GI Bill for tuition payments and allowances while they attend school are included in total support.

Example. During the year, your son receives $2,200 from the government under the GI Bill. He uses this amount for his education. You provide the rest of his support -- $2,000. Because GI benefits are included in total support, your son is not your dependent.

Other support items. Other items may be considered as support depending on the facts in each case. For example, if you pay someone to provide child care or disabled dependent care, you can include these payments as support, even if you claim a credit for them.

DO NOT INCLUDE IN TOTAL SUPPORT

The following items are not included in total support.

  1. Federal, state, and local income taxes paid by persons from their own income.
     
  2. Social security and Medicare taxes paid by persons from their own income.

  3. Life insurance premiums.

  4. Funeral expenses.

  5. Scholarships received by your child if your child is a full-time student.

  6. Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance payments used for the support of the child who receives them.

Multiple Support Agreement

Sometimes no one provides more than half of the support of a person. Instead, two or more persons, each of whom would be able to take the exemption but for the support test, together provide more than half of the person's support.

When this happens, you can agree that any one of you who individually provides more than 10% of the person's support, but only one, can claim an exemption for that person. Each of the others must sign a written statement agreeing not to claim the exemption for that year. The statements must be filed with the income tax return of the person who claims the exemption. Form 2120, Multiple Support Declaration, can be used for this purpose.

Example 1. You, your sister, and your two brothers provide the entire support of your mother for the year. You provide 45%, your sister 35%, and your two brothers each provide 10%. Either you or your sister can claim an exemption for your mother. The other must sign a Form 2120 or a similar statement agreeing not to take an exemption for her. Because neither brother provides more than 10% of the support, neither can take the exemption. Your brothers do not have to sign a Form 2120 or the written statement.

Example 2. You and your brother each provide 20% of your mother's support for the year. The remaining 60% of her support is provided equally by two persons who are not related to her. She does not live with them. Because more than half of her support is provided by persons who cannot claim an exemption for her, no one can take the exemption.

Example 3. Your father lives with you and receives 25% of his support from social security, 40% from you, 24% from his brother, and 11% from a friend. Either you or your uncle can take the exemption for your father. A Form 2120 or a similar statement from the one not taking the exemption must be attached to the return of the one who takes the exemption.

Support Test for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents

The support test for a child of divorced or separated parents is based on the special rules explained here and shown in Figure B. However, these special rules apply only if all of the following are true.

  1. The parents are divorced or legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance, or separated under a written separation agreement, or lived apart at all times during the last 6 months of the calendar year.

  2. One or both parents provide more than half of the child's total support for the calendar year.
     
  3. One or both parents have custody of the child for more than half of the calendar year.

"Child" is defined earlier under Gross Income Test.

This discussion does not apply if the support of the child is determined under a multiple support agreement, discussed earlier.

General rule. The parent who has custody of the child for the greater part of the year (the custodial parent) is generally treated as the parent who provides more than half of the child's support. It does not matter whether the custodial parent actually provided more than half of the support.

Custody. Custody is usually determined by the terms of the most recent decree of divorce or separate maintenance, or a later custody decree. If there is no decree, use the written separation agreement. If neither a decree nor agreement establishes custody, then the parent who has the physical custody of the child for the greater part of the year is considered to have custody of the child. This also applies if the validity of a decree or agreement awarding custody is uncertain because of legal proceedings pending on the last day of the calendar year.

If the parents are divorced or separated during the year and had joint custody of the child before the separation, the parent who has custody for the greater part of the rest of the year is considered to have custody of the child for the tax year.

Example 1. Under the terms of your divorce, you have custody of your child for 10 months of the year. Your former spouse has custody for the other 2 months. You and your former spouse provide the child's total support. You are considered to have provided more than half of the support of the child. However, see Exception, later.

Example 2. You and your former spouse provided your child's total support for 2003. For the first 8 months of the year, you had custody of your child under your 1995 divorce decree (the most recent decree at the time). On August 31, 2003, a new custody decree granted custody to your former spouse. Because you had custody for the greater part of the year, you are considered to have provided more than half of your child's support, unless the exception described next applies.

Exception. The noncustodial parent will be treated as providing more than half of the child's support if:

  1. The custodial parent signs a written declaration, discussed later, that he or she will not claim the exemption for the child, and the noncustodial parent attaches this written declaration to his or her return,

  2. A decree or agreement went into effect after 1984 and states the noncustodial parent can claim the child as a dependent without regard to any condition, such as payment of support, or

  3. A decree or agreement executed before 1985 provides that the noncustodial parent is entitled to the exemption, and he or she provides at least $600 for the child's support during the year, unless the pre-1985 decree or agreement is modified after 1984 to specify that this provision will not apply.

Figure B. Support Test for Children of Divorced or Separated Parents

Noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent is the parent who has custody of the child for the shorter part of the year or who does not have custody at all.

Example. Under the terms of your 1984 divorce decree, your former spouse has custody of your child. The decree specifically states that you are entitled to the exemption. You provide at least $600 in child support during the calendar year. You are considered to have provided more than half of the child's support.

Written declaration. The custodial parent may use either Form 8332 or a similar statement to make the written declaration to release the exemption to the noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent must attach the form or statement to his or her tax return.

The exemption can be released for a single year, for a number of specified years (for example, alternate years), or for all future years, as specified in the declaration. If the exemption is released for more than one year, the original release must be attached to the return of the noncustodial parent for the first year, and a copy must be attached for each later year.

Table 6. Deduction for Exemptions Worksheet

Divorce decree or separation agreement. If your divorce decree or separation agreement went into effect after 1984 and it states you can claim the child as your dependent without regard to any condition, such as payment of support, you can attach a copy of the following pages from the decree or agreement instead of Form 8332.

  1. Cover page (write the other parent's social security number on this page).

  2. The page that states you can claim the child as your dependent.

  3. Signature page with the other parent's signature and the date of the agreement.

If your divorce decree or separation agreement went into effect after 1984 and it states that you can claim the child as your dependent if you meet certain conditions, you must attach to your return Form 8332 or a similar statement from the custodial parent releasing the exemption.

Child support.
All child support payments actually received from the noncustodial parent are considered used for the support of the child.

Example. The noncustodial parent provides $1,200 for the child's support. This amount is considered support provided by the noncustodial parent even if the $1,200 was actually spent on things other than support.

Paid in a later year. If you fail to pay child support in the year it is due, but pay it in a later year, your payment of the overdue amount is not considered paid for the support of your child either for the year the payment was due or for the year it is paid. It is payment of an amount you owed to the custodial parent, but it is not considered paid by you for the support of your child.

Example. You owed but failed to pay child support last year. This year, you pay all of the amount owed from last year and the full amount due for this year. Your payment of this year's child support counts as your support for this year, but payment of the amount owed from last year does not count as support either for this year or for last year.

Third-party support. Support provided by a third party for a divorced or separated parent is not included as support provided by that parent. However, see Remarried parent, below.

Example. You are divorced. During the entire year you and your child live with your mother in a house she owns. The fair rental value of the lodging provided by your mother for your child is $3,000. The home provided by your mother is not included in the amount of support you provide.

Remarried parent. If you remarry, the support provided by your new spouse is treated as provided by you.

Example. You have two children from a former marriage who live with you. You have remarried and are living in a home owned by your new spouse. The fair rental value of the home provided to the children by your new spouse is treated as provided by you.

Home jointly owned. If you and your former spouse have the right to use and live in the home, each of you is considered to provide half of your child's lodging. However, if the divorce decree gives only you the right to use and live in the home, you are considered to provide your child's entire lodging. It does not matter if the legal title to the home remains in the names of both parents.

Parents who never married. These special rules for divorced or separated parents do not apply to parents who never married each other. If this is your situation, you must provide more than half the support of your child or enter into a multiple support agreement, as discussed earlier, to satisfy the support test.

Example. You never married the father of your child and do not live with him, but he provides the home you and your child live in. The fair rental value of the lodging he provides to your child is $3,000 a year. You provide the rest of your child's support for the year, which is $1,200. The special rules for a child of divorced or separated parents do not apply because you and the child's father never married. As a result, you cannot claim an exemption for your child because you did not provide more than half of the child's support.

PHASEOUT OF EXEMPTIONS

The amount you can claim as a deduction for exemptions is phased out once your adjusted gross income (AGI) goes above a certain level for your filing status. These levels are as follows: 

Filing Status 

Exemption Amount

Married filing separately 

$104,625

Single 

$139,500

Head of household 

$174,400

Married filing jointly 

$209,250

Qualifying widow(er) 

$209,250


You must reduce the dollar amount of your exemptions by 2% for each $2,500, or part of $2,500 ($1,250 if you are married filing separately), that your AGI exceeds the amount shown above for your filing status. If your AGI exceeds the amount shown above by more than $122,500 ($61,250 if married filing separately), the amount of your deduction for exemptions is reduced to zero.

If your AGI exceeds the level for your filing status, use Table 6 to figure the amount of your deduction for exemptions.

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS FOR DEPENDENTS

You must list the social security number (SSN) of any person for whom you claim an exemption in column (2) of line 6c of your Form 1040 or Form 1040A.

 If you do not list the dependent's SSN when required or if you list an incorrect SSN, the exemption may be disallowed.

Note. If your dependent does not have and cannot get an SSN, you must list the individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) or adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) instead of an SSN. See Taxpayer identification numbers for aliens or Taxpayer identification number for adoptees, later.

No social security number.
If a person for whom you expect to claim an exemption on your return does not have an SSN, either you or that person should apply for an SSN as soon as possible by filing Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Information about applying for an SSN and Form SS-5 is available at your local SSA office.

It usually takes about 2 weeks to get an SSN. If you do not have a required SSN by the filing due date, you can file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for an extension of time to file.

Born and died in 2003. If your child was born and died in 2003, and you do not have an SSN for the child, you may attach a copy of the child's birth certificate instead. If you do, enter "DIED" in column (2) of line 6c of your Form 1040 or Form 1040A.

Taxpayer identification numbers for aliens. If your dependent is a resident or nonresident alien who does not have and is not eligible to get an SSN, the IRS will issue your dependent an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) instead of an SSN. Write the number in column (2) of line 6c of your Form 1040 or Form 1040A. To apply for an ITIN, use Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

It usually takes about 30 days to get an ITIN.

Taxpayer identification number for adoptees. If you have a child who was placed with you by an authorized placement agency, you may be able to claim an exemption for the child. However, if you cannot get an SSN or an ITIN for the child, you must get an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) for the child from the IRS. See Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions, for details. 

(Information Provided by Internal Revenue Service)

 

 

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