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. I have had guardianship of my granddaughter since March 2016. I had 10% of my income taken out of my SSA for the year 2016. My tax person and told me someone was using my granddaughter SS #, so I couldn’t claim head of household.
    I told her to put me down as single instead of head of household so I can get my money in a timely manner.
    I would like to know how can I find out who claim my granddaughter and how I can get my granddaughters child credit?

  2. My daughter and her two children have lived with us forever we raised the children all expenses, school, food, clothes she pays no rent or helps with any expenses not medical the state pays for that .We have been doing this since birth for the boys She does not have a good job and made very little (now unemployed) she has a boyfriend who wants money he is unemployed also. We have always claimed the boys on our taxes, this year we did the return and it came back that the social security numbers were used. She went with her boyfriend to do the taxes and claimed the boys (she made 9,000 this year) we filed by mail since we could not do it on the computer. We both recently got the refund checks 5,000 for us and the 3,800 for her. What happens now. We are spending our check just in case it is cashed and in the bank she has spent hers on a cruise with the boyfriend!! what do I do?

  3. hi there, so my boyfriend claimed his 2 nieces on his taxes but it was a mistake. We filed them ourselves but when we submitted the tax return we forgot to take his nieces off the return. (we were trying to look at how much the return would be with his nieces on it so his sister could see what a huge difference it makes when you have dependants on your return) needless to say he got a letter saying they were holding his eic credit and something else until they had proof that he could claim them, obviously we don’t have that proof ) and it said it was an “audit.” we are not sure if we are supposed to amend the return or what to do. Also, his sister (the mother of his nieces) needs to file her taxes with his nieces on their but she isn’t sure if she needs to wait until he fixes his tax return, HELP PLEASE!

    1. From the situation that you have outlined, it seems that the IRS will require you to file an amendment due to your return already being accepted and processed. However it would be best to contact your local IRS office to connect with a human representative to have a clearer outline as to how you should go about your circumstance. If they advise that you file a 1040X, it is a service that we provide for an additional fee, please feel free to contact us by phone at (877) 289-7580 during our hours of business Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm EST. (excluding holidays) for further assistance.

  4. My sister tried to file my kids without me knowing…They sent her a letter asking for info on dependents…Do I have to do a paper return now ?

    1. If her return claiming the dependents was already accepted by the IRS, you will not be able to e-file your return claiming the same dependents. If you decide to dispute her claim, you can paper-file your return with the dependents listed. I advise you contact the IRS on 1-800-829-1040 regarding this issue.

  5. Me and my fiance both agreed that he will file for our daughter this year. Well I accidentally messed up and put her social and info in my taxes and filed first, it was accepted. My fiance tried using her social and info and filed his here recently and his was rejected because I had already used her social. I know I’m going to have to amend my taxes but do I have to wait til my amended return gets accepted for him to refile with her social and info in his taxes or will he be able to go ahead and refile with out waiting?

    1. One thing for sure is your husband’s return will keep getting Rejected with the dependent claimed. Therefore he will not be able to electronically file with the dependent anytime soon. The IRS does not update their records very quickly and Amended Returns (which have to be paper filed) can take 8-12 weeks for the IRS to process. He may, however, paper file with the dependent. Be sure he includes a cover letter with his return explaining the situation, as well as the fact that you are Amending your return. I would also advise that you Amend your return as soon as possible so they will receive both of your returns to make sense of the situation.

    2. In order for his return to be accepted with your daughter, he will need to wait until your return has been fully processed by the IRS before he can submit in his return to be accepted with your daughter.

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