Can You Claim Parents as Dependents?

Sometimes we’re so busy growing up that we forget they’re growing old.

Everyone knows that claiming a dependent on your income tax return can get you a significantly larger refund. For every dependent you claim on your taxes you can claim an extra personal exemption. That’s a large chunk of change you can deduct from your income, thus reducing your tax burden.

But who exactly can you claim? Are you eligible to claim your parents as dependents?

When it comes to taxes there are actually two different types of dependents: qualifying children and qualifying relatives.

Obviously, you can’t claim your parents as qualifying children. So the question becomes, do they meet the requirements for qualifying relatives?

Is your parent a qualifying relative for tax purposes?

In order to claim someone as a qualifying relative they must:

  • Have lived with you all year as a member of your household, or be one of the following family members: child, parent, sibling, stepparent, stepchild, step-sibling, half sibling, grandparent, grandchild, child-in-law, parent-in-law, sibling-in-law, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew
  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Be unmarried, or married but not filing a joint return
  • Not be a qualifying child of you or someone else
  • Have a gross income of less than $4,000
  • Have more than half of their total support for the year provided by you

In plain English, this means that yes you can claim a parent as a dependent but they have to meet the above requirements.

Are Social Security Benefits included?

As a general rule, Social Security benefits are not included in gross income. For more information about Social Security and Disability benefits, check out our other article, Claiming Parents as Dependents If They Receive Social Security Benefits. Be sure to make sure they are tax-exempt, because this could determine your eligibility to claim them as a dependent.

When determining if you provided over 50% of a parent’s total support, be sure to consider

  • lodging
  • food expenses
  • utilities
  • repairs
  • household expenses
  • clothing
  • education
  • medical and dental expenses
  • travel
  • recreation expenses

If you support a parent who meets all of the requirements listed above be sure to claim them when you file online this season!


233 Replies to “Can You Claim Parents as Dependents?”

  1. Hi,

    I am foreign expat just moved to Nova Scotia with my family including myself, my wife, 2 yr old son and my mother. My mother stays with me as I lost my father 4 yrs before. She is totally dependent on me in terms of expenses as she is a housewife and never worked before. She is 57 yrs old. Can I claim for her?

    1. Pertaining to your question, if you have been providing for more than half her support for the year and she does not have a gross income of over $4,050 for your 2016 return filing, she is eligible for you to claim.

  2. Hi,
    My mother is 69 years old. She recently became a US Citizen. She doesn’t work anymore and doesn’t qualify for any SS benefits. The only thing she’s getting is Medi-CAL (Medicaid in CA). She lives with me and her income is literally $0. I don’t claim her as a dependent because I don’t want to ruin her eligibility for medical benefits.
    Do I have to claim her? Or is it ok for her to file taxes with $0 income? Is it true if I claim her as my dependent, it could affect her eligibility for medi-CAL since it’s based on the household income?
    Thank you so much

  3. Hi,

    My mom doesn’t live in the US, she is a resident of Mexico and does not work. I send her money regularly to Mexico.

    Can I claim her as a dependent? If not, how does that work when the person lives in a different country, in this case Mexico?


  4. Hello,
    my mom can’t work as she got arthritis,
    and she is living with me from 3 years, and am supporting her for everything,
    so my question is that is there a way to file her as my dependent ?
    please suggest

  5. My mother is sick and I take care of her. I am trying to determine if she can be considered a dependent. I understand that her social security isn’t counted, however, she receives a spousal annuity payment from her ex-husband that was court ordered as part of her divorce. Do these funds count as income for her?

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