Claiming Parents as Dependents If They Receive Social Security Benefits

It’s been said that life comes full circle. Well, so do taxes.

It’s difficult to watch your parents grow old. The ones who supported you while growing up are now the ones you’re taking care of. You may be curious if you can claim your parents as dependents on your tax return like they once did for you.

The answer lies in the following five tests set up by the IRS:

#1. They must be related to you.

#2. They must be a citizen or resident of the United States, Canada, or Mexico.

#3. They must not be filing a joint tax return.

#4. They must have an annual gross income of less than $4,000.

#5. You must provide more than 50% of their financial support for the year.

With these qualifications in mind, let’s take a look at some special circumstances that might apply to you and your parents.

Can I claim my parent as a dependent if…

…they receive Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Yes. Your parent is receiving benefits for the time and effort they put in while on the workforce. This amount is not included in their gross income amount for the year. That means that Rule #4 above is still met even if their benefits come to more than $4,000 annually.

EXCEPTION: If your parent decides to go back to work after retiring, then that income could affect Rule #4 and Rule #5 above. Here’s how. If their income amount from the new job comes out to be more than $4,000 for the year, then you can not claim them as a dependent on your taxes. In turn, if they are providing more than 50% of their own support with the new job, then you cannot claim them as a dependent either.

…they receive Social Security Disability?

Yes. Millions of Americans each year enter into the Social Security Disability program because they are no longer able to work due to a medical condition. Disability is available to those whose condition is expected to last longer than 12 consecutive months (or already has). One can receive this benefit until they are either no longer disabled or have reached full retirement age. 

EXCEPTION: You can claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return without their benefit being affected. However, Social Security benefits can limit any wage income they receive while on disability (ie: from another job they are employed with).

…they receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Yes. This is a program available to those who have a disability which makes them unable to work but don’t qualify for regular disability benefits. This also works a bit differently than the disability program mentioned above. While you can claim your parent on your return if they receive SSI, your 50% support may exceed their income requirement to qualify them for the SSI program in the first place. Why is that? It is a means-tested disability program.

…they have a job?

Maybe. This situation is becoming more and more common. Whether your parent is bored at home, needs the extra cash, or simply enjoys the workforce, they may have a new job. It’s important for them to realize that the income they are earning is taxable and now included in their gross income amount. When claiming your recently-employed parent as a dependent, you’ll need to keep in mind Rule #4 and #5 above. If their new job is earning them more than the $4,000 annual threshold, then you can no longer claim them as a dependent. If this also means that you are no longer providing 50% of their support, then claiming them is not an option for you. That being said, if you still pass the tests with flying colors, then enjoy your tax deduction!

Taxes can be confusing. So can Social Security benefits.

Combining the two can lead to hundreds of questions and one major headache. When the ultimate goal is to help out a parent who’s always cared for you, it’s tough to focus on money. However, if you fit the qualifications, then you’re entitled to a tax deduction. So let’s get down to filing that tax return. With RapidTax, our customer support team is ready to help you prepare those taxes; deduction or not.

115 Replies to “Claiming Parents as Dependents If They Receive Social Security Benefits”

  1. I live with my mom and younger brother. My mom receives ssi, welfare (food stamp), and about 25$ of child support for my brother. I help pay for his clothe, uniform, hair cuts , he’s in private school so i also pay for his school. Can i claim him as a dependent? Or will that affect my mother?

  2. My parents both moved in to my home a few years ago. They only collect social security, they have no other income. I provide all housing, utilities and food for them. They’re only expense is medicine and medical insurance costs. I provide more than 1/2 of their support. My question is, my father passed away on 1/21/16 so he really only resided with me for 21 days. Do I still claim him as a dependent on my 2016 taxes?

    1. Hi Cindy,

      I am so sorry for your loss.

      As long as you met the requirements that the IRS has instated for claiming a qualifying relative, then you can claim your parent for the year on your tax return. This is true, regardless of the short 21-day time frame since there is no such thing as claiming a dependent for only a portion of the year.

      We have another blog article specifically relaying how you should file a taxpayer’s final tax return if you’d like to take a look HERE.

  3. My father died November 26,2016 and lived alone,unmarried, and total social security disability of 9,100.00.. Can i claim him on my taxes. I am his daughter, only next of kin.

    1. Hi Ramona,

      I am sorry for your great loss last year.

      Based on the information you have provided, it seems as though you would be able to claim your father on your taxes IF you meet the other qualifications listed in the article above. Social Security benefits do not typically count toward the consideration of gross income for the year.

  4. I understand that the Social Security Benefits don’t count as income. My step-father also receives a retirement benefit from my deceased mom’s former employment. Can this be exempt also? Thanks.

  5. My parents file joint. Both are on social security. Me and my daughter live with them. I work and help pay for groceries utilities rent and other misc things. I also split daycare expenses with my ex. Questions can we (my parents)both claim my daughter? I also have a son but my ex claims him in our agreement. My son also lives with me half the year as well. I read that the grandparents can claim them as hoh and I still can claim them as well. But I know they file joint. Not sure if they have to? Any advice.

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