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. My daughter wants me to claim her daughter my grandchild but the father wants to claim her he is not on the birth certificate and he threatened to send me to court and said that I can go to jail is that true

    1. To claim a child as your dependent, you must be able to answer “yes” to all of the following questions:-
      -Is the child your relative? The child can be your son, daughter, stepchild, eligible foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, adopted child or an offspring of any of them.
      -Does the child meet the age requirement? The child must be under age 19 or, if a full-time student, under age 24. There is no age limit if your child is permanently and totally disabled.
      -Does the child live with you? The child must live with you for more than half the year, but several exceptions apply.
      -Do you provide financial support for the child? The child may have a job, but that job cannot provide more than half of their support.
      -Are you the only person claiming the child? This mostly applies to children of divorced parents. Here you must use the “tiebreaker rules,” which are found in IRS Publication 501. These rules establish income, parentage and residency requirements for claiming a child.
      Once you meet the IRS requirements, you will not be breaking any rules and regulations.

  2. I have financially supported my girlfriend with her child for the last 2 years and had claimed the baby on my taxes. I also supported her this last year 2017; she broke up with me on December and I want to claim the baby for 2017 taxes but she wants to give her to another person that did not support the baby in any form. Can I fight this situation?

  3. In brief, I’m 18 and have been living with my girlfriend and her family for a full year. My girlfriends mother has been supporting me financially all year and,with my permission, had a planned on claiming me on her tax return however, my mother claimed me on her taxes in addition to her not even working for 3 Years. If I’m not mistaken, this is fraud. Is there anything I could do? Where do I begin?

  4. During a separation with my ex wife, she allowed someone else to claim our son on taxes. I don’t know who and at the time we didn’t have court orders that we would alternate years. I believe she did this because she already owes money to the IRS. Is this illegal and how can I fix it? I feel that if she isn’t claiming him, I should have been able to. Our son has only lived with me and his mother and we are the only providers. We have 50/50 custody and share all expenses.

  5. I have had my kids with me for almost a year which will be May 20th we left Louisiana and came to Texas my husband claimed our kids without my permission and my boyfriend was going to claim them on his taxes since I haven’t worked since 2007 I need to know how to work things out on the taxes since even my boyfriend hasn’t received his taxes so we can get them amended for the kids

    1. The IRS has tie breaker rules to determine who gets to claim the kids on their return. If you are looking to submit an amended return to claim your kids, you must be able to provide the IRS with evidence of your claim when you file your amended return. Ultimately the IRS will determine who qualifies to claim the dependents.

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