The good news is that in many cases you can, in fact, claim your adult child as a dependent. To help you figure out just when this is allowed, the IRS has created a set of fairly simple tests. That's "simple" by IRS standards, so bear with us here.
First, that grown person using all your hot water and forgetting to put the milk back in the fridge (no, not your husband -- the other one) must meet the qualifying child or qualifying relative test. To be a qualifying child, he or she must meet all of the following criteria:
- The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendant of any of those.
- The child must be younger than you, or younger than your spouse, if filing jointly. (Kind of a no-brainer for your own kids, but comes into play for the sibling/stepchild scenarios.)
- The child must be under age 19 at the end of the tax year, or under age 24 at the end of the tax year if a full-time student. (If your unemployed 28-year old still calls your basement "home," don't despair: There's a test for you on the next page.)
- The child must have lived with you for more than half the year.
- The child must have provided less than half of his or her own support for the year.
- The child must not have filed a joint return with someone, except to claim a refund.
If your child satisfies the qualifying child requirements, you're almost there: Just a few more criteria to meet. If not, there's still hope. Read on to see if your little couch potatoes meet the qualifying relative test.