You can’t divide a dependent exemption in half.
So, your ex claimed your child as a dependent on their tax return, when you were the only parent eligible to do this. Was it out of revenge? Maybe it was just miscommunication? Perhaps they believed they were actually allowed to? It happens. Regardless of the reason they did it, now you need to fix it and prevent this from happening in the future. RapidTax is here to help.
What will happen if I e-file my tax return?
You are the custodial parent of your child. Are you sure? To avoid confusion with the tax jargon I just threw your way, a custodial parent (for tax purposes, anyways) is the parent who the child lives with for the majority of nights per year. If both parents spent an equal amount of time with the child, then the parent with the highest adjusted gross income is the custodial parent (by default), according to the IRS. Keep in mind that determining who the custodial parent is does not depend on a state or county court ruling. For tax purposes, the IRS only considers federal law.
If both you and your ex e-file your tax returns and claim your child as a dependent, the one of you who filed second will be rejected by the IRS. This is inevitable. Even if you are the custodial parent, the IRS e-file system is a machine and you will still need to prove this.
What steps do I need to take to prove that I am the eligible parent?
The first thing to understand is that each tax situation is unique, and the best thing to do is contact the IRS directly for specific instructions on how to proceed. However, if you want a general idea of the steps you’ll need to take, keep reading.
Step #1: Double check that you meet all of the eligibility requirements set up by the IRS. This is important because if you do not meet even one of the following and your ex does, it could work against you. These requirements are:
- The child must be related to you.
- The child must be under age 19 or, if a full-time student, under age 24.
- The child must live with you for more than half the year.
- The child must receive at least 50% of their financial support from you.
Step #2: Paper File your tax return to the IRS with the child listed as your dependent. When a return is mailed to the IRS, it will make it’s way to an actual person instead of being pushed through the e-file cyberspace world.
Step #3: You and/or your ex will receive audit request letters from the IRS. Read this letter over carefully as it will let you know exactly what you will need to provide to the IRS next.
Step #4: Mail the requested documentation to the IRS. Again, this step will depend on what the letter states.
Step #5: Wait for a response from the IRS. Warning: this is time consuming and there’s really no way around that. In most cases, the IRS needs to wait on both parties involved to submit documentation and make their determination on who can claim the dependent child.
I think it is important that I stress just how time consuming and frustrating this process can be. In order to resolve it as quickly as possible, you should contact the IRS before filing the return. The IRS may require you to include documentation of your dependent when you initially mail your return in. Although each situation is different, the IRS cares about one thing when it comes to any situation like this: Facts. Regardless of how much drama this has caused in your life, it is best to leave the emotional details out when resolving this with the IRS.
How can I avoid this in future tax years?
After going through this resolution process with the IRS and your ex, trust me – You won’t want to ride this rollercoaster again. There are some precautions you can take when considering future tax years.
The ideal situation is to negotiate with your ex. You’d be surprised how much can be resolved with just one quick conversation. Haven’t spoken to your ex in years? Don’t feel like changing that? This is more likely than not; hence why the ‘ideal’ solution isn’t always preferable. On to the next…
The realistic measure to take would be to make sure you file your tax return as soon as possible. Now, I’m not suggesting you do this if you are clearly not eligible to claim the child, since that will only cause problems for you when the IRS finds out. However, if you are the parent who should be claiming the dependent on your tax return, then it is possible that your ex will give up when they are rejected by the IRS, or faced with another audit letter.
If you want to take precaution to the next level, you can paper file your tax return every year that you claim your child as a dependent, along with the supporting documentation (i.e. proof of your child residing with you). This will not guarantee IRS approval, but it could put you a step ahead of the game should this conflict happen again.
Are you stuck between a rock and a hard place?
You’ve contacted the IRS and received a letter with instructions for how to proceed. Do you still feel lost? Our team of tax professionals here at RapidTax can help you work through that IRS gibberish and get your tax return filed to the IRS.