Tax Refund

Claiming dependents can help you reduce your tax liability, but there are rules regarding who you can claim.

You may be wondering, “Can I claim my parents as dependents?” While the answer may be yes, it ultimately depends on your circumstances.

Sorting it out on your own can be a bit confusing, so we’ve outlined what you need to know in this guide. Learn more about claiming a parent as a dependent and what you need to know before you file your taxes.

Why might you claim a parent as a dependent?

There are a handful of reasons you may want to claim a parent as a dependent. But before you do that, you and your parent(s) must meet certain criteria to be eligible to claim them as a dependent.

Claiming an elderly parent as a dependent is common for children who act as caregivers. Even if your parents don’t need full-time care, claiming them as a dependent allows you to support your parents while minimizing your financial burden. 

If you pay for care for your elderly parents, you may also be eligible for caretaking tax breaks, so make sure to look into those opportunities as well. Tax credits and exemptions can help you reduce your tax liability.

Asian woman kneeling next to an elderly Asian man in a wheelchair.

Are there rules for claiming your parents as dependents?

There are special tax rules for parents. If your qualifying person is your father or mother, you may be eligible to file as head of household, even if your parent doesn’t live with you. However, your mother or father must meet the qualifications of being a dependent. 

For example, you must pay more than half the cost of keeping up a home that was your parents’ main home for the entire year. If you pay more than half the cost of your parents’ senior living or assisted care facility, that counts as paying more than half the cost of keeping up your parents’ main home.

As with anything tax-related, you’ll have to meet a few requirements. Once the requirements are satisfied, you’ll be able to receive an additional tax break for your efforts, designed to help offset the costs associated with caring for a parent.

However, don’t worry about knowing the tax rules; TurboTax will ask simple questions about your dependents and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for based on your answers.

Requirements for claiming your parent as a dependent

The IRS has strict rules about who you can claim as a dependent. We’ll go into more detail below, but here’s a quick overview of the eligibility requirements for your parents to be claimed as dependents:

  • Your parent’s gross income must be less than $4,700 for the calendar year
  • You must pay for at least half of your parent’s support throughout the year
  • Your parent can’t be claimed as a child by another taxpayer
  • Your parent must be a US citizen, US national, US resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • You can’t be a dependent of another taxpayer
  • Married parents can’t file a joint return unless they’re only filing to receive an income tax or estimated tax refund
  • If your parent is a foster parent, they need to live with you for the entire calendar year

Support Means Support

To meet the support requirements necessary to claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return, you must cover more than half of your parent’s support costs, meaning 51% or more of their support must be covered by you.

These costs include:

  • Food
  • Housing/lodging expenses
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Medical services and/or equipment costs

You are also allowed to include your dependent parent’s medical expenses on your own tax return if you itemize when calculating your medical deductions.

If support for your parent was given by a group of individuals or family members, you may want to sign a Multiple Support Declaration (Form 2120) if you also supported your parent and you want to claim them on your tax return as a dependent. A Multiple Support Declaration (Form 2120) is a signed statement from each eligible person, waiving his or her right to claim the parent as a dependent.

Residency and Relationship

The technical term the IRS uses to meet the relationship requirement for these tax and life situations is “Qualifying Relative.” This means that the person you’re caring for can be your parent, in-law, or even a grandparent. However, they must be related to you biologically, by adoption, or through marriage (which would technically be a biological relationship with your spouse). Your parent, in-law, grandparent, or other relative does not have to live with you all year like a non-relative.

And guess what? The IRS has residency requirements as well. To meet the residency requirement, the person you are caring for must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Be a legal US Citizen
  • Be a U.S. National
  • Be a U.S. Resident Alien
  • Be a Resident of Canada or Mexico

Social Security and Gross Income

The parent you want to claim as a dependent on your tax return must have a Social Security number (SSN) or an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). Either of these numbers will satisfy the identification requirement for the IRS. Also, the parent you are claiming cannot file a joint tax return.

To be allowed to claim your parent as a dependent, your parent’s taxable income must be less than $4,700 for tax year 2023 (and $5,050 for 2024). This means that if your parent’s income falls into that threshold you aren’t eligible to claim them as a dependent. Non-taxable income such as Social Security does not factor into the calculation of total income for purposes of claiming a parent as a dependent.

More Perks and Requirements

One of the last requirements to claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return is that you can’t be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return or eligible as a dependent (even without being claimed) if you plan to claim your parent as a dependent.

Pros and cons of claiming your parents as dependents 

Before filing your taxes, you should weigh the pros and cons of claiming parents as dependents. Claiming parents as dependents can be a smart choice, but it’s all about your situation.

Pros of claiming your parents as dependents

Claiming a parent as a dependent means you may qualify for certain deductions and credits, which can reduce your taxable income. With the money you save on taxes, you can provide the support your parents need to live happy, healthy lives.

Your parents don’t have to live with you for more than half the year to qualify as a dependent. As long as you pay more than half of the household expenses for your parents, you can claim them as dependents even if they live elsewhere.

You could be eligible for the new “Other Dependent Credit,” worth $500 on your return. More good news! You may also be able to claim the “Dependent Care Credit” if your parent needs assistance while you are at work or away.

Cons of claiming your parents as dependents 

When you claim your parents as dependents, they may not be eligible for certain tax benefits. Your parents may not qualify for assistance programs, including SNAP and utility offsets.

While tax credits and deductions can help you reduce your taxable income, you still have to pay a significant amount in care costs. The tax benefits you receive from claiming your parents as dependents will only partially offset medical expenses and other care costs.

Man looking at a document in deep thought.

How Claiming a Parent Affects Your Filing Status

Before you claim a parent as a dependent on your taxes, you should know how it affects your taxes. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent and file as head of household (HOH).

To file as head of household, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You paid more than half of the home expenses for the calendar year.
  • You weren’t married on the last day of the year.
  • A qualifying person must live with you for at least half the year. Parents don’t have to live with you for half the year, but you must be able to claim them as dependents.

How to claim your parents as dependents

If you’re wondering how to claim a parent as a dependent, the answer is simple. Once you’re sure you and your parent(s) meet all eligibility requirements, you can add them under the “Dependents” section on Form 1040.

You’ll need to provide a first and last name, Social Security number, and relationship to you. You’ll also need to specify whether each dependent qualifies for the Child Tax Credit or the Credit for Other Dependents.

You can review our guide to dependents to learn more about eligibility requirements for dependents.

Don’t worry about knowing these tax rules. No matter what moves you made last year, TurboTax will make them count on your taxes. Whether you want to do your taxes yourself or have a TurboTax expert file for you, we’ll make sure you get every dollar you deserve and your biggest possible refund – guaranteed. 

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