Claiming a Parent As a Dependent

African American multigenerational family taking selfie at dinner table.If you are caring for your mother or father, you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent on your income taxes. This would allow you to get a tax credit for that parent; the maximum tax credit is currently $500.

What Are Dependents?

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a dependent is defined for tax purposes as an individual who is either a qualifying child or a relative (but not the spouse) of the taxpayer. Dependents can include children, stepchildren, foster children, siblings, half-siblings, or parents.

Can I Claim My Parents as Dependents?

There are several criteria used by the IRS to determine whether you can claim an aging parent as a dependent:

  • The parent you claim as a dependent must be related to you. This shouldn’t be a problem if you are claiming a parent (in-laws and stepparents are also allowed).

    Keep in mind, however, that foster parents do not count as relatives. To claim a foster parent, they must have lived with you for a year in your main home and as a member of your household.

  • Your parent must be a citizen or resident alien of the United States, a US national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
  • Your parent must not have filed a joint return. If your parent is married, each spouse must file separately. (There is an exception if your parent is filing jointly but has no tax liability. If your parent files a joint tax return solely to get a refund, you can claim them as a dependent.)
  • Your parent must not have a gross income of $4,700 (in 2023) a year or more. Gross income does not include Social Security payments or other tax-exempt income. (For those with incomes above $25,000, some portion of Social Security income may be includable in gross, or combined, income.)
  • Your parent can't be a qualifying child of another taxpayer.
  • You must provide more than half of the support for your parent during the calendar year. Support includes amounts spent to provide food, lodging, clothing, education, medical and dental care, recreation, transportation, and similar necessities. (Notably, your biological parent, or in-law do not need to have resided with you. For example, they may be living in a nursing home.)

    Even if you don't pay more than half your parent’s total support for the year, you may still be able to claim your parent as a dependent if you pay more than 10 percent of your parent’s support for the year, and, with others, collectively contribute to more than half of your parent’s support. To receive the exemption, all those supporting your parent must agree on and sign the applicable Multiple Support Declaration (Form 2120).

If you can't claim your parent as a dependent because they filed a joint tax return or had a gross income above $4,700 (in 2023) but you have been paying medical expenses for a parent, you may be able to deduct those expenses from your taxes. Learn more about medical expense deductions on the IRS website.

Connect With a Professional

If you have questions about whether you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent on your taxes, consider reaching out to a qualified elder law attorney.