How to Calculate Exemptions

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When filing your federal income tax return, you supply your name, your spouse’s name and related Social Security numbers in the first section of Form 1040. You also supply the name, Social Security number and relationship of dependents on line 6c of page 1 of Form 1040. The total number of exemptions you are able to claim in a given tax year is composed of yourself, your spouse and the dependents listed, which can be found on line 6d of Form 1040.

Complete the top section of Form 1040 for yourself and your spouse. Check the box next to line 6a and 6b, if applicable. Complete line 6c for all dependents. Indicate the total number of exemptions claimed in the box for line 6d.

Review the amount of your adjusted gross income. If your AGI is greater than the thresholds set by the IRS based on filing status, your exemption deduction will be reduced. For 2009, the phase-out was triggered if your AGI was greater than $125,100 for married filing separate taxpayers, $166,800 for single filers, $208,500 for head of household filers, $250,200 for married people filing jointly, and qualifying widower filers. If your AGI is greater than the threshold for your filing status, reduce the exemption deduction by 2 percent for every $2,500, or $1,250 if married filing separately.

Calculate the exemption deduction you are claiming by multiplying the number indicated on line 6d by $3,650 and enter the result on line 42 of Form 1040. If you are able to be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, do not reduce your taxable income for your exemption. For example, a parent may be entitled to take an exemption deduction for a child who is a college student. If the student worked during the year and files his own tax return, the student will not be able to claim the exemption for himself.

Subtract the deduction for exemptions entered on line 42 from line 41 to arrive at taxable income.


  • This article has been written using information for the calendar year 2009. The amount allowed for exemptions increases each year. Check the IRS website for past and current information.


About the Author

Jessica Kent started writing professionally in 2002. Her articles have appeared in publications including the New York State Bar Association's "Family Law Review," "Valuation Strategies" and "Metropolitan Corporate Counsel." Through her writing, she strives to assist people in making informed financial decisions. She is a Certified Public Accountant in New York. Kent holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Binghamton University.

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