Just because you feel as if all your money goes toward paying for things for your girlfriend doesn't mean you get to claim her as a dependent on your taxes. Instead, even though you're not related to her, she'll have to meet the tests to be claimed as your qualifying relative. If she meets all the tests, you'll get to lower your taxable income by claiming her as a deduction.
Since your girlfriend won't meet the relationship test, she must live as a member of your household for the entire year. Temporary absences, such as vacations, business trips or school, are not counted against the requirement. For example, if your girlfriend gets sick and spends a month in the hospital, she'll still meet the test as long as she spends the rest of the year as a member of your household. In addition, your relationship with your girlfriend can't violate local law. For example, if your state prohibits cohabitation, technically your girlfriend living with you violates local law and you wouldn't be able to claim her. However, according to "Forbes" magazine, the Internal Revenue Service doesn't regularly challenge this.
Gross Income Test
To claim your girlfriend, she can't have more gross income than the value of an exemption. As of publication, that means she can't have more than $3,800 of gross income, which includes any income not exempt from taxes. Gross income is also figured before taking any deductions or credits. For example, if your girlfriend works part time and earns $4,000, you can't claim her.
You must provide more than half of your girlfriend's support during the year to claim her as a dependent. Support refers to her costs of living, such as rent, utilities, food, clothing, entertainment and education. For example, if your girlfriend's total support is $20,000 and you provide $9,000, her relatives provide $6,000 and she chips in $5,000, you can't claim her because you don't provide more than half her support.
Not a Qualifying Child
Your girlfriend can't be someone else's qualifying child if you want to claim her as your qualifying relative. For example, if her parents were allowed to claim her as a dependent child, you couldn't claim her even if you met all the other criteria.
Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."