When a person files his taxes, he will often claim a dependent on his forms. This dependent is a person who the filer is responsible for taking care of financially. For each dependent that a person lists on his taxes, he receives a reduction in the amount of taxes he owes. However, a person must provide proof that he indeed has a dependent, or else he will not receive the reduction.
Proof of Dependency
If you claim a dependent, you will often not be required to furnish any proof that you are in fact caring for the person. However, in some cases, the IRS will request that you furnish various documents showing that the person you have claimed as a dependent is in fact in your care. While this is relatively easier if the dependent is your own child who lives with you, it can be trickier if you are caring for a relative's child.
Among the documents that you may wish to show to the IRS are a copy of financial records that show money spent on the dependent's behalf. In addition, to prove that the dependent lives with you, you can show mail that you received for him at your address. In addition, you can also get affidavits from neighbors testifying that your dependent lived with you.
If you cannot or will not comply with IRS regulations regarding the proof of dependents, then you will likely end up in court, where a judge will mediate the dispute. If you do not comply with IRS requirements, then the burden of proof is on you to show that you have a dependent. However, if the IRS contests the claim, even though you have met its requirements, the burden of proof is on them to prove you wrong. The IRS may specify what kind of proof they require.
If the judge rules in your favor, then you will not be required to pay the money that you saved by listing a dependent. However, if the judge rules against you, then you will be required to pay the money that you deducted from your tax payment, as well as various late fees -- and, potentially, some additional penalties. Whether you can attempt to claim the dependent during another year will depend on specifics of the case.
Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.