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Qualifying Child Tax Credit Overview

Families come in all different forms, and so the IRS acknowledges parents and non-parents with qualifying children for child dependency and tax benefits. Here’s an overview of the qualifying child tax credit options:
Married parents with qualifying child living together for 12 months
Example: Mother and Father
Married parents that file joint returns can claim the dependency exemption and benefits for a qualifying child or children.
Married parents that file separate returns can decide which parent can claim the child’s benefits, regardless of adjusted gross income. However, because the married parents are not filing joint returns, they can’t earn income credit or child and dependent care credit.
If both parents claim the child’s benefits, then the parent that has housed the child the longest will have priority. If that cannot be determined after a residency test, or if residency time appears to be equal, the parent with the higher adjusted gross income will have priority.
Married parents with qualifying child living together for less than 12 months
Example: Mother and Father
If a child lives with one parent for less than half of the (tax) year, the child is not considered a qualifying child of the parent.
Unmarried parents with qualifying child living together for 12 months
Example: Girlfriend and boyfriend with a child
The parents can choose which one will claim the qualifying child benefits, while the other must not claim any. While adjusted gross income does determine the decision, head of household filing status is often a consideration. Parents must not be considered the qualifying child of their own parents in order to claim the benefits of their own child (for example, a parent under the age of 19 that does not support half of him or herself).
Unmarried parents with qualifying child living together for less than 12 months
Example: Boyfriend and girlfriend with a child
Unmarried parents can claim the child’s benefits, regardless of adjusted gross income. However, because they are not filing joint returns, these married parents can’t earn income credit or child and dependent care credit expenses.
Once again, if both parents claim the child’s benefits, then the parent with whom the qualifying child resided the longest with will have priority. If that cannot be determined after a residency test or appears to be equal, the parent with the higher adjusted gross income will have priority. Again, parents must not be considered the qualifying child of their own parents in order to claim the benefits of their own child.
A parent and a non-parent with a qualifying child
Example: Mother and Grandmother
The parent has priority to claim the child dependency exception and other related benefits. While benefits cannot be shared with the non-parent, the parent can allow the non-parent to claim the exemption if the non-parent’s adjusted gross income is greater than the parent’s.
If the parent has more than one qualifying child, the parent and non-parent can each claim one qualifying child as long as the non-parent’s adjusted gross income is greater than the parent’s.
Two non-parents with a qualifying child
Example: Aunt and Uncle
The non-parents with the higher adjusted gross income has priority, if and only if the child is not a qualifying child of the parents. If a parent has the option to claim the qualifying child but decides against it, again the child is filed under the non-parent with the highest adjusted gross income, as long as the non-parent’s adjusted gross income is higher than the parent’s adjusted gross income.

If you have more questions about qualifying children, claiming a qualifying child, or other parent vs non-parent questions, speak to your C.P.A. at 212 Tax.

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