The Internal Revenue Service allows for a reduction in taxable income for each dependent you claim on a tax return. Although the tax code imposes age limitations on those you can claim as a dependent, exceptions exist. However, the age of a dependent is just one of the many requirements you must meet before you can take an exemption.
Taxpayers may claim all qualifying children as dependents on a tax return. A qualifying child can be a son or daughter, a stepchild, foster child, sibling, step-sibling and any descendant of them such as a grandchild. The child must be under the age of 19 at all times during the tax year and reside with you for more than six months. The IRS also requires that you provide at least half of the financial support for the child during the year. Providing free housing to a child is part of the financial support you provide. You must have priority over all other taxpayers who are eligible to claim the child as a dependent.
One of the exceptions to the age requirement of the qualifying child is if the child is a full-time student. A child who is a full-time student remains a qualifying child until the tax year in which the child reaches 24 years of age. A child is a student if attending any educational institution other than an online or correspondence school for a minimum of five calendar months of the relevant tax year. The school a child attends determines whether the student meets the minimum coursework necessary for full-time study.
The other exception to the age requirement is if the child has a permanent disability that prevents participation in meaningful and gainful life activities. A qualified doctor must provide you with a diagnosis that she expects the disability to last for at least a year, or possibly result in death. If the requirements for the exception are met, you can claim the child as a dependent indefinitely, regardless of age.
You may be eligible to claim a relative of any age as a dependent provided they do not meet the requirements of a qualifying child. A relative qualifies as a dependent if they live with you for the entire tax year. However, a relative who does not live with you can qualify if all other requirements are met and the relative’s relationship to you or a spouse is one listed under qualifying children, plus parents, stepparents, grandparents, nieces and nephews or in-laws. For any year you claim a relative as a dependent, the relative’s gross income must be less than $3,650.
To claim a relative as a dependent, you must provide more than half the relative’s financial support during the tax year. You can include a portion of housing expenses in financial support if the relative lives with you rent-free. For example, if the relative has $3,000 of gross income for the year, you must provide at least $3,001 in support to take a dependency exemption.
Jeff Franco's professional writing career began in 2010. With expertise in federal taxation, law and accounting, he has published articles in various online publications. Franco holds a Master of Business Administration in accounting and a Master of Science in taxation from Fordham University. He also holds a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School.