Taxpayers who take care of others such as children, elderly parents and other family members may be able to claim them as dependents. The Internal Revenue Service allowed taxpayers to take a tax exemption of $3,650 for a dependent as of 2010. You can claim a nephew as a dependent if he meets certain IRS criteria.
There are two ways that an individual can qualify as your dependent: as a "qualifying child" or "qualifying relative." An individual must meet several tests to qualify as either a qualifying child or a qualifying dependent. A nephew can be either.
A child must meet five basic criteria to be a qualifying child dependent. According to the IRS, the descendants of your brother or sister (nephews and nieces) pass the "relationship test" for being qualifying child. A nephew must meet four other criteria: He must be under age 19 at the end of the year (24 if a full-time student) and be younger than you; he must have lived with you for more than half the year; he cannot have provided more than half of his own support; and he must not file a joint tax return. If a nephew meets these four criteria, he is considered a dependent child for tax purposes.
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If your nephew is not a qualifying child, he might still be considered a qualifying relative. The IRS requires the following for a nephew to be a qualifying relative: He must not be a qualifying child of you or any other taxpayer; he must have a gross income that is less than $3,650; and you must provide more than half of his total support for the year.
The dependent tests must be applied to each individual that you care for. For example, if two nephews live with you, you must determine whether each is a qualifying child or relative individually. It is possible that one of your nephews is a dependent while another might not qualify. For example if you have nephews age 17 and 25 who earn $5,000 each working a summer job and you provide the support necessary for them to live, the 17-year-old would be qualifying child. But the 25-year-old would not qualify as a dependent because he is too old to be qualifying child and his income is too high to be qualifying relative.