Six Rules about Dependents, Exemptions

True, everyone's tax return is different depending on their unique circumstances; however, there are some tax rules involving dependents and exemptions that affect every taxpayer similarly.

Everyone’s tax return is different because there are so many factors to consider depending on the specifics of the individual taxpayer’s life and income. However, there are some tax rules that affect every taxpayer.

According to the IRS, no matter who you are and what your tax return looks like, there are six federal income tax rules involving dependents and exemptions that apply to everyone.

Whether you’re filing on your own for the first time or you just can’t remember filling out your tax return last year, here are the IRS’ six important facts about dependents and exemptions that will help you file your 2012 taxes.

(Remember a person must meet several tests in order for you to claim them as a dependent, which you can see here.)

1. Exemptions

There are two types: personal exemptions and exemptions for dependents. According to the IRS, you can deduct $3,800 for each exemption you claim on your 2012 tax return.

2. Personal exemptions

Usually, you can claim one exemption for yourself and one for your spouse if you are married and filing jointly. If you file separate returns, the only way you can claim an exemption for your spouse is if he or she had no gross income and was not the dependent of another taxpayer.

3. Exemptions for dependents

Generally, you can claim an exemption for each of your dependents, who are usually qualifying children or relatives, according to the IRS. Although, there are some reasons why someone who could qualify as a dependent cannot be claimed as such. (See the remaining rules below.)

4. Some people do not qualify dependents

In general, you may not claim a married person as a dependent if they file jointly with their spouse. Of course, like most tax rules there are some exemptions.

5. Dependents may have to file

Even if a person can be claimed as a dependent, that person may have to file his or her own tax return depending on the amount of gross income, marital status and any special taxes that the person may owe.

6. Dependents can’t claim a personal exemption

Just the fact that a person could be claimed as a dependent disqualifies them from claiming a personal exemption. So even if you don’t claim that person as a dependent, he or she cannot claim a personal exemption on his or her own tax return.

Read more:

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
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