Someone Else Claimed My Dependent

Did the IRS reject your tax return because someone else claimed your dependent?

Claiming a dependent is usually pretty simple: you give the IRS their social security number, certifying that your relationship with that person satisfies a few simple rules.

Things can get more complicated, especially if someone else also claims the same person as a dependent. If they file their return first, the IRS will assume it’s legitimate and award them the full tax benefit of the dependent. When you attempt to e-file your return, it will be rejected.

What can you do then?

The process is fairly straightforward. After your e-filed return has been rejected because someone else claimed the same dependent, you need to file a paper return. You can still prepare your return online. Instead of e-filing, you will need to print it out, sign it, and mail it to the IRS.

With your return, include a cover letter explaining your situation to the IRS as well as evidence proving that you have the right to claim the dependent (ie: medical records, school records, etc.).

The IRS will then review both returns claiming that dependent and determine which person should be claiming the dependent based on tax law.

The first thing to do is to make sure that you actually can claim the person in question as a dependent. There are two types of dependents, qualifying children and qualifying relatives, and both have different requirements.

Criteria for claiming a qualifying child

In order to claim someone as a qualifying child, he or she must

  • Be your biological or adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half sibling, step-sibling, or a descendant of one of these
  • Be under age 19, under age 24 if a full-time student, or any age if permanently and totally disabled
  • Remain a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Not be married, or be married but not filing a joint return
  • Have lived with you for at least half the year.
  • Not have provided more than half of his or her own support

Criteria for claiming a qualifying relative

In order to claim someone as a qualifying relative, he or she 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. 
  • Remain a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Not be married, or be 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

When you sent your cover letter and evidence along with your return, you should strive to prove that you satisfy all of the requirements for the type of dependent that you are trying to claim.

Can I find out who claimed my dependent?

The IRS can’t tell you who else has claimed the dependent for several reasons. One is that since they don’t know who made the right claim, they don’t want to violate the privacy of someone who really is claiming their own child. Another is that there’s always the potential for mistakes, and it doesn’t make much sense to punish someone for accidentally writing a “4” that looks like a “9” when copying a Social Security number.

What if two people both meet the requirements to claim a dependent?

If two different people both have the right to claim the dependent according to the criteria listed above, the IRS will generally award the dependent to the person with whom the dependent lived for the greatest amount of time during the tax year. If the dependent lived with both people for an equal amount of time, then the IRS will award the dependent to the taxpayer with the higher AGI.

Why dependents require a Social Security number

For a while, dependents didn’t require a Social Security number at all. The IRS used to take taxpayers’ word for it when they claimed dependents. But in 1987, the rule changed to require taxpayers to give a Social Security number for every dependent they claimed. And suddenly, seven million dependents disappeared. Many of them were probably due to misunderstandings: two divorced parents each claiming all of their kids, for example. But others could have been due to shady behavior, including claiming children while knowing someone else would claim them, or even fabricating dependents entirely.

Prevent this in the future

The problem can be solved by mailing in a paper return. But how do you prevent this from happening in future years? The IRS is working to improve its safeguards against tax fraud and identity theft, but these aren’t perfect. The best thing you can do to prevent someone else from claiming your dependent is to file your taxes as early as possible. That way your e-filed return will be accepted and theirs will be rejected. You’ll get your refund on time and they will be required to prove they meet the dependent criteria.

Some food for thought

In situations like the ones discussed above, there tends to be emotion involved from both parties. The IRS is required to base all final decisions solely on tax law. When dealing with the IRS, it is most productive to stick to the facts.  This will save you time and stress.



746 Replies to “Someone Else Claimed My Dependent”

  1. For the pass two years there has been someone claiming my dependent. Making me pay back. I have contacted IRS on numerous occasions even filing motion to reconsider and provided the required documents to get the process started, and nothing has been done. At this point do I need to get an attorney involved? Thank you

    1. Hi Char,

      Our advice is that you file your tax return with your dependent listed on it. Although, he/she may already be claimed, this will cause the IRS to audit your tax return. An audit should help resolve the problem. However, you must be prepared to provide proof that the person you are claiming meets the qualifications of a dependent. Consulting an attorney can be expensive, so you may want to consider initiating an audit before seeking legal recourse.

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  3. Hi Jenna,
    Your son’s father would not be able to claim you as a dependent because your relationship to him is not one of the qualifying relationships allowed by the IRS. However, he should be able to claim your son. The best way to rectify this situation is if his aunt will file an amended tax return, and remove your son from her dependents. Then you will be able to file a tax return for that year and claim your son. If you cannot reach an amicable resolution on this matter, you will need to contact the IRS and inform them that she has claimed your son although she is not entitled to, and the IRS will have to take action.

    1. Hi my daughters father claimed her on his taxes without my permission and his taxes came back already. I have documentation stating that I’m her mother, I take her to doctors appointments, and all her documentation has my name there. I also receive government assistance in Washington, DC. His name is not on the birth certificate and I have mail from another address stating that I do not live there. I live with my father in Landover, MD in another residence.

      1. Hi Kebrina,
        You will have to file a paper return (mail in your tax return), along with a cover letting explaining why you qualify to claim your daughter. Also, you will include copies of evidence claiming you have the right to claim your daughter.
        Once the IRS receives this, they will review it along with the father’s return and grant the dependent to whoever rightly qualifies to claim her.

  4. Hi Jenna,
    If your boyfriend’s tax return was accepted by the IRS, and he claimed the same dependent that you did, then his tax return must have been received by the IRS first, unless your tax return had already been rejected for a different reason.
    At this point, though, it doesn’t really matter which tax return the IRS received first, because your boyfriend has already had his refund released with your dependent claimed. The only way to rectify the situation so that everyone’s tax return is correct is to have your boyfriend file an amended tax return WITHOUT claiming your dependent. Once the amended tax return is accepted, he will be required to pay back part of his refund to the IRS, and you will be able to file your tax return and claim your dependent. An amended tax return must be filed by mail, but it can be prepared and printed out here at for a fee. If your boyfriend files his amended tax return, you will probably also have to file your tax return by mail. You may also wish to contact the IRS directly, and see if you can request that the same IRS agent handle the corrections to both your tax return and your boyfriend’s tax return, so that it will be processed without further complications.

    1. I had gave permission to my sister to file my two kids and me my sister and mother got into a disagreement about the and my sister trying to cheat out of my money now my mother had called the irs on her telling them that my sister was not suppose to file them but I gave her permission too file them what will happen next

      1. Hi Toya,
        The dependents will be granted to whoever they spent more time living with during the tax year. Also, if they spent the most time with your sister, she can show proof proving she has the right to claim the dependents.

      2. I claimed my brother on my 2013 tax return because he lived with me full time also he was in school full time, that year I had no problem with claiming him either. This year I also did the same thing, my brother just turned 26 and although he was still a full time student and graduated in December, my tax preparer advised me to claim him again this year. Now I’ve been sent a letter to prove that my brother is my brother. How is that even possible to prove? I’ve been taking care of him since 2012 after our mom passed. Now the irs is keeping my tax return unless I’m able to prove our relationship to one another. What can I do?

      3. Hi Tiffany,

        This should not result in too much of a problem for you. The IRS is required to do this to prevent fraud or identity theft so it is just a safety precaution. There are a few documents that you could send the IRS to prove your relationship with your brother. The most common would be copies of a birth certificate for you and one for your brother. The IRS will be able to compare one or both of the parent(s) names on both birth certificates. This is the easiest document to provide. Another option would be paternity test results. This could be a time consuming process unless of course, you have had the test done previously and already have a copy of the results. A third option would be a court decree or a document from a court stating that the two of you are siblings.

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