If your parents claim you as a dependent on their tax return, you still need to file a return if your earned income was more than $6,300 in 2017 or if you had unearned income of more than $1,050, as of 2017. When someone claims you on her tax return, you can't claim an exemption for yourself, and your standard deduction is often lower. But, you might still be able to itemize your deductions to get the most from your return. As of 2018, the personal exemption and the dependent tax deduction have been eliminated, so if you earned less than the filing status deduction ($12,000 for single filers), you aren't required to file.
Itemizing Is an Option
If you had expenses that were more than the standard deduction you're allowed to claim, itemizing your deductions makes sense. Examples of expenses that you can deduct if you itemize include medical expenses above 10 percent of your income, money you donated to charity and local or state income taxes paid. Itemizing is your only option if your parents claim you as a dependent, your filing status is married filing separately and your spouse itemizes his deductions.
Standard Deduction for Dependents Is Limited
The standard deduction for single taxpayers who aren't claimed as a dependent on someone else's return is $6,350 for the 2017 tax year. That amount can be greatly reduced when your parents claim you as a dependent. As of the 2017 tax year, the standard deduction for a child dependent is either $1,050 or the total amount of your income, plus $350, as long as it's less than $6,350. If your income was just $2,000 in 2017, you can only deduct $2,350 if you take the standard deduction.
As of 2018 however, the standard deduction for single tax filers increases to $12,000. Also, personal exemptions and the standard deduction for a child are eliminated, so your parents have less incentive to claim you on their taxes.
Schedule A and Expenses
If you do itemize for taxes, you'll need to complete Schedule A when you file your return. You can only deduct expenses you actually paid. For example, if you had medical expenses that were more than 10 percent of your adjusted gross income but your parents paid them, they – not you –can claim the deduction if they itemize.
Are You Really a Dependent?
When you are deciding whether to take the standard deduction or to itemize, consider whether your parents can legitimately claim you as a dependent. The Internal Revenue Service has several tests that you need to pass for your parents to claim you as a qualifying child. For one thing, your parents need to provide at least 50 percent of your support. You also need to live with them for at least half of the year and be under age 19 if you're not in school or under age 24 if you're in school full time. If you don't pass the tests for a qualifying child, your parents can only claim you as a dependent or qualifying relative if your income is less than $4,050 for 2017.
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