The Tax Implications of Supporting Adult Children

There are a number of hurdles to clear before you can claim an adult kid as a dependent.

MANY, IF NOT MOST, empty nesters are probably glad to have their adult children return to live with them for a while.

But if it turns out to be a long time, come tax time, you might be tempted to put down your child as a dependent, which may not work out so well if the IRS determines that he or she doesn’t meet the rules that decide who is considered a taxpayer’s dependent. Or – although this is unlikely – you could find that supporting your child means your tax bill is more expensive due to triggering the gift tax.

There is a good reason to put your adult child down as a dependent, or what’s known as a “qualifying relative,” if you’re financially supporting him or her. While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in 2017, removed the $4,050 personal exemption that you could claim for yourself and your dependents (they will return in tax year 2026), you can claim the “credit for other dependents,” often unofficially referred to as the “family tax credit.”

On the other hand, no need to despair if you can’t claim your adult child as a qualifying relative. The credit for other dependents is only $500.

In any case, if you’re thinking of claiming your adult child as a dependent, be aware of these tax rules:

  • Age matters when classifying dependents.
  • Your adult child must live with you.
  • Your adult child can’t be earning much money.
  • You need to be paying for over half of their support.
  • Your adult child can’t file a joint return with a spouse if he or she is a dependent.
  • Your adult child can’t be filed as a dependent by you and someone else.
  • Be aware of, but do not fear, the gift tax rule.

Age Matters When Classifying Dependents

More specifically and typically: “To claim your child as your dependent, they must be under age 19 or a full-time student under age 24,” says Josh Zimmelman, owner and founder of Westwood Tax & Consulting in New York City.

Once a kid turns 24, or if a 19-year-old elects to not get a higher education, things get a little trickier with the definition of dependent. If that’s the case, some of the following rules become very important.

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