Claiming exemptions for dependents on your taxes helps get your tax bill down. However, just because you pay for some of your son's expenses or let him live with you doesn't always allow you to claim him. Instead, he has to meet the tests to be either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative. If he's employed, he might be ineligible.
Qualifying Child Support Test
Employment, by itself, doesn't mean that you can't claim your son as a qualifying child because the IRS doesn't have an employment or income test. However, to claim your son as a qualifying child, he can't provide more than half his own support. Any earnings from his job that he uses for his needs, like clothing, rent, utilities, medical care and education count as support he provides. For example, if his total support costs for the year are $19,000 and he uses $8,000 of his earnings from his job, you can still claim him. If he used $10,000, you wouldn't be able to claim him.
Other Qualifying Child Tests
Qualifying children must be under 19 years old at the end of the year. The age limit goes up to 24 if your son is a full-time student and is completely removed if he is permanently disabled. In addition, he must live with you for at least half of the year, though the IRS exempts periods of time away for medical care, vacation, business and schooling.
If your son is too old to be claimed as a qualifying child, he might still be claimed as a qualifying relative. But if he is employed, it will be harder to claim him as a qualifying relative because of the gross income test, a test that doesn't apply to qualifying children. To meet the test, you're son can't have more gross income than the amount of a personal exemption, or $3,800 as of 2012. Gross income means all income not exempt from taxes before any deductions or credits are taken. For example, if your son earns $5,000 in 2012, he is ineligible to be claimed as a qualifying relative.
Other Qualifying Relative Tests
The support test for qualifying relatives requires that you provide more than half your son's support to claim him. For example, if his total support is $19,000, you must pay more than $9,500 of his expenses to claim him as a qualifying relative. However, you don't have to meet the requirement that he live with you for the entire year; as your child, he is exempt from that test.
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."