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. Hi there, so I just have a few questions in regards to the three children, that are my sisters children. I received a call at the beginning of Aug/2016 at work, from my sister and in tears, she was crying so I ask what’s wrong she says ” do you want my kids? If not social service is here to take them!” My first thought was I couldn’t let the kids be taken, so I say “hmmm okay…” I then speak with the social worker who was there, she explains the situation to me and why it was not safe for the children to be there and asked when I could be there to pick them up I said half an hour. I hang up the phone and start crying, what has she done, and what the heck did I get myself into, how was I going to look after 4 children, her 3 ages 8,10,12yrs and I have one of my own 12yrs as well, by myself while working full time. She and the dad have barely ever worked back when and while they were together, mostly all the children’s lives up until the beginning of 2016. I’ve always know them to live off the income of the children, child tax, welfare, gst, etc….. but the father was not around very much after they split and both fell into the habits of making wrong and bad choices which led up to the day I received the phone call. So half hour after the call, I arrive at my sisters to take the kids. The social worker tells me this was only going to be temporary, I though “thank god” because I don’t know what and how I was hiking to be able to do this alone. She says a minimum of a week and asks if I needed help with anything for them I say “well some groceries would definitely help” so I was given a $200 food voucher, which yes did help a lot every week until I asked for a little more support for the seeing how I was not recieveing any at all from anywhere and stressing about not having a sitter to watch the kids I was not missing work that I could not afford which set me further back. To finally getting a monthly support help from the family center in at the end of Dec/2016 only to receive one more at the end of Jan/2017 then they cut the support, due to the father out of nowhere coming into the picture after not being able to reach, find another get ahold of at all! This was in Nov/2016. We had then a few days after him contacting the social worker himself and everyone but my sister showed up to the meeting where he was in no position to be able to take his children then and there so he signed the paper stating the family center could Finachally help me(which I finally seen at the end of Dec/2016)because he couldn’t seeing how he was living with his “girlfriend” in her place with her kids and and EI check every 2weeks and we set a date that he would then have that time, for him to figure out his situation for the kids and then he would take them and our file with the social services would be terminated. The date set was Jan13/2017. As well the day after I picked them up back in Aug/2016 my sister had signed over temporary custody, because I needed to get them registered for school, seeing my daughter had already started a week prior and just having them all in school even just while having them with me would help so I could work during the days while the were all at school. So I then received the paper and registered all 3 the next day, the day after that they stated school. In the mean time I was getting my shifts covered at work scared to leave them alone and with no one who could watch them for me. I then already started to fall behind. Well the day came as to when he was supposed to take them, and our file was then terminated, well while he had only taken the boys now 9yr old and still10yrs old, moved them schools and across the city, I even moved their beds in my truck by myself for them only for him and his girlfriend to fight and break up the next day, this is 3 weeks after taking the boys while I still have his 12yr old daughter because she didn’t want to move schools. He had no where to take them and came and asked if they could come back, and an hour later they were back home with me again! And to this day I still have all 3 of them now 10,11and still 12yrs. And still with no financial help again from anyone or anywhere they have given me a total of $340.00 once just last month a $100 from my sister who I think is claiming them on her welfare and the rest from the father one time $20 another time $80 and another time $40 and just last month as well now about 4weeks ago and other $100, and was told he would send $100 2weeks ago from his EI which I still not have seen and I’m pretty sure now avoiding me for! And today I find out that he has received back pay GST for the kids and is also now getting more on his EI for them? And is posting pics of the casino and bingo that him and his girlfriend have been going to almost every night! He still is not working and living back with his girlfriend in her place and keeps telling the kids he’s getting a place at the end of the month? With what???? the back pay from the 3kidsi have being caring for since Aug of last year? And then what…. live off the children’s child tax again every month?!!! I’m just a bit frustrated with these 2 adults that can’t seem to get their shit to together(pardon my language) and a little upset and sad for “my kids” is what I’ve grown to calling them and confused with the whole situation. I’m not sure as of really what to do in my situation? I’m only a 29yr old single mom. Supporting my now 4 kids alone, working full time, stressing everyday, feeling overwhelmed other days but will never give up nor give them up to child services. I will continue to work hard and do what I have to, to make things work and ends meet. I could just use any kind of help that would help, because any little bit is better then the none I have or that I have gotten or that just isn’t there. I just need a little direction as to what I am supposed to do or where do I go from here and or who I can talk to for more answers. Sorry for the whole story and the super long msg, but I thank you and appreciate your time. Hope to hear back soon.


    1. It might be best to contact child services or support to dispute the claim or lack of support you are receiving to support these children. You may have to further dispute that the father himself is unfit to be their legal guardian, and have the title of legal guardian transferred to you. Maybe even looking into any pro bono lawyers in your area that are willing to help or guide you may help ease this process. At this point there isn’t any more additional information we can provide to advise you on how you should go about this. It’s best to seek out first the institutions that are designed to assist the child, for further advisement.

  2. My father claimed me on his taxes, but I have not been living with him for over a year. He doesn’t pay for my rent, car payments, car insurance, or any of my living expense. I’m 20 years old, and am a full-time student. Was he allowed to claim me as a dependent? And what should I do to move forward in proving that he shouldn’t have claimed me?

    1. Hello Micela,

      An individual can claim you if they have provided at least 50% of your expenses. However, you can paper file your return with a cover letter explaining your situation to dispute this issue with the IRS (1800-829-1040).

  3. My husband and I live apart due to the military. I lived with my daughters dad 2016 but also married 2016. Daughters dad took care of me but i worked for him as a day care provider, chef, laundress , dog sitter etc etc. My husband claimed me and my baby’s dad knew and agreed to it. We three discussed it before anyone filed. Now 2 months after my husband claimed me and everything is said and done, my baby’s dad is telling me he’s claiming me because if he doesn’t he will owe. He kicked me and our kid out which was part of the reason I did not give him permission to claim me but the main one was I’m married. Can he do this? He’s trying to purposely mess with us because he’s got some vendetta due to me not wanting to be with him.doesn’t being married trump his claim on me, plus me not giving him permission. It doesn’t seem right that he could mess with us this bad.

    1. Hello Joanne,

      We are sorry to hear about your situation. You will have to file a paper return to the IRS, by mail. That means you will have to mail your return to the IRS, include a cover letter explaining your situation and evidence proving you have the right to claim your child, and yourself. To dispute this claim, we advise you to contact the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 for further instructions.

  4. Help! My bf claimed our son this year. I filed my taxes and mistakenly included my sons ssn(first time). I tried to efile and couldn’t bc he had already been claimed. Is there any chance that the IRS deducting money from his account was caused by my mistake? If so, once I resubmit my changes will they put the money back into his account?

    1. If your boyfriend did not have a tax due to the IRS, it would be in his best interest to contact an IRS representative to determine why his account was debited. Your attempt to claim your dependent on your return after he was claimed on your boyfriend’s return will not cause the IRS to withdraw funds from your boyfriend’s account. However, if your boyfriend owes the IRS, they have the authority to withdraw their funds based on his IRS payment agreement.

  5. I used my sons ssn to claim the eic but I did not claim him this was done through turbotax, his father who claims him every year claimed him also. We got a letter from the its saying two people claimed him. It says on my return that he is NOT claimed as a dependent just for eic. I have no idea how to do the 1040x for this

    1. Within the father’s tax return he would have also had to indicate that he would only be claiming your son for the dependent credit and not the EIC Credit. Your rejection may have been due to an EIC credit rejection from already being accepted on the father’s return. If however someone else filed to claim your son you would need to inquire about it if it definitely was not either you or the father.

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