MLR

Expensive lesson: Children in home aren’t always dependents

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A taxpayer was disallowed dependency exemptions for his son, daughter and grandchild in a January 2015 U.S. Tax Court case. The court also denied him head-of-household filing status.

This decision (Gregory McBride v. Commissioner., U.S. Tax Court, T.C. Memo. 2015-6, Jan. 8, 2015) cost the taxpayer $3,540 in additional federal income taxes and penalties of $708.

During 2010, Gregory McBride and his son, daughter and granddaughter all lived together in McBride’s home.

On Feb. 28, 2011, McBride’s son filed his Form 1040 income tax return, claiming himself as a personal exemption. Also on that date, McBride’s daughter filed her Form 1040. She claimed $11,892 in gross income.

McBride’s daughter claimed a personal exemption for herself and a dependency exemption for her daughter. She received a refund of $5,290, due mostly to a refundable credit of $4,450.

McBride had requested a filing extension for his 2010 return. He timely filed his return on May 23, 2011, claiming head-of-household filing status and dependency exemptions for his son, daughter and granddaughter.

A taxpayer can claim a dependency exemption for someone who is a qualifying child or a qualifying relative.

The IRS requires a taxpayer to meet a five-part test to claim an exemption for a qualifying child. The taxpayer must meet the requirements of all five parts to claim this exemption. One of the parts is an age test.

The dependent child must be under the age of 19 or a student and under the age of 24 as of the end of the tax year, which in this case was Dec. 31, 2010. The facts in this case stipulated that both the son and the daughter were over the age of 24, so the age test was not met and McBride would not be able to claim his children as dependents.

There is an exception – which did not apply in this case – for an individual who is permanently and totally disabled.

McBride could claim neither his daughter nor his son as qualifying relatives because he did not present any evidence that he provided more than 50 percent of their support during the year. A taxpayer must meet the support test to claim someone as a dependent relative. In the case of his daughter, McBride did not meet the support test.

McBride could not claim his granddaughter as a dependent because the mother had already claimed her. The Internal Revenue Code has a special “tie-breaker rule” when multiple taxpayers are claiming the same child as a qualifying child. In these cases, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the taxpayer who is the parent – in this case, the mother.

The court denied McBride’s claim for head-of-household status. To claim this status, a taxpayer must be unmarried at the end of the tax year and provide a home for a dependent for at least half of the year.

Because the son, daughter and granddaughter were not considered to be dependents by the court, McBride did not meet the criteria for head-of-household filing status. Therefore, the court disallowed all three dependency exemptions and the head-of-household filing status.