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Claiming the Child and Dependent Care Credit

dependents and your taxes

Claiming a dependent on your tax return can help save a lot of money each year. Some taxpayers may be unsure about who qualifies as a dependent. This is especially true if a living situation can change year to year. Here’s all you need to know about dependents and your taxes, including how to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit and others to reduce your tax liability. 

What is a dependent? 

A dependent is someone you can claim on your tax return because they rely on your financial support. While you cannot claim yourself or your spouse as a dependent, you can claim your children, relatives, or domestic partners as dependents. This is as long as they meet the requirements for a qualifying child test and qualifying relative test. All dependents must be a U.S. citizen or resident. They also cannot be claimed on another return or file a joint return. 

What is the qualifying child test? 

A qualifying child must one of the following relationships to you: 

  • Son, daughter, or stepchild 
  • Eligible foster child or adopted child 
  • Brother, sister, half-brother, or half-sister 
  • Stepbrother or stepsister 
  • An offspring of any of the above 

They must be under age 19, or age 24 if they attend school full time. Permanently and totally disabled children can be claimed at any age. The child must live with you for most of the year. You must also provide more than half of their financial support. 

What is the qualifying relative test? 

You might also be able to claim qualifying relatives in your life if they lived with you all year long. You can claim someone who has not lived with you all year if they are: 

  • Your child, stepchild, adopted child, foster child, or descendant of any of these 
  • Your brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, or stepsister 
  • Your parent, stepparent, or grandparent 
  • Your niece or nephew of your sibling or half-sibling 
  • Your aunt or uncle 
  • Your immediate in-laws, including son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law 

They cannot have made more than $4,700 in 2023. In addition, you must have provided more than half of their total support.  

What is the Child and Dependent Care Credit? 

The Child and Dependent Care Credit is a tax credit provided by the federal government to help working individuals and families offset some of the costs associated with childcare or the care of qualifying dependents. This credit is designed to make it more affordable for parents or caregivers to work or look for work while ensuring that their children or dependents are well taken care of. 

To qualify for the credit, you must meet certain criteria, including having dependent children under the age of 13, or dependent adults who are physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves. The credit is calculated as a percentage of your qualifying expenses, and this percentage can vary based on your earned income. Generally, the credit covers 20% to 35% of eligible expenses, up to $3,000 for single individuals and $6,000 for two or more individuals. 

Qualified expenses include costs associated with daycare centers, babysitters, nannies, after-school programs, and certain summer camps. Expenses related to overnight camps typically do not qualify. One important thing to note is that if you are married, you must file a joint income tax return to claim this credit. There are several special rules that apply to dependents who will turn 13 during the tax year, newborn dependents, and children of divorced or separated parents. Taxpayers should reference IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses, for more information. 

What other deductions and credits are available for dependents? 

  • Child Tax Credit: The CTC is $2,000 per qualifying child under age 17 in 2023 
  • Earned Income Tax Credit: While you don’t need children to claim the EITC, the credit does increase if you have children. For tax year 2023, you can claim a max credit of $3,995 for one child, $6,604 for two children, and $7,430 for three or more children.  
  • Adoption Credit: In 2023, you may claim a nonrefundable credit up to $15,950 of expenses that pay for the adoption of a child who is not your stepchild.  
  • Higher Education Credits: The American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit can be claimed for yourself, your spouse, or dependents who are enrolled in college, vocational school, or job training. You can get a maximum annual credit of $2,500 per eligible student with the American Opportunity Tax Credit in 2023. The Lifetime Learning Credit allows a credit of 20% of the first $10,000 in qualified education expenses, and a maximum of $2,000 per tax return. 
  • Credit for Other Dependents: This nonrefundable credit allows a maximum credit of $500 for each dependent. 

Tax Relief for Those with Dependents 

Knowing the rules surrounding dependents and taxes is very important. Claiming someone on your tax return when they are not eligible can result in the IRS rejecting your return or an IRS audit. On the other hand, knowing these rules can help save money if you suddenly become financially responsible for another person, like a sick parent or a foster child. Optima Tax Relief can help with your tax debt situation.

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