Can I Claim My Parents as Dependents?

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If you are caring for your mother or father, you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return. This would allow you to get a tax credit for that parent; the maximum tax refund is currently $500 per parent.

What Are Dependents?

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

Claiming a Parent as a Dependent

The IRS uses several criteria to determine whether you can claim an aging parent as a dependent. These include the following:

  • The parent you claim as a dependent must be a relative of yours. This shouldn’t be a problem if you are claiming a parent. (Note that it's permissible for you to claim an in-law or stepparent as a parent who is a dependent.)

However, keep in mind that foster parents do not count as relatives, per the IRS. So, 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, national, or resident alien of the United States, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
  • Your parent must not have filed a joint tax 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 had 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 cannot be a qualifying child of another taxpayer (Note: Nor can you or your spouse, if filing jointly, be a dependent 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 does not need to have resided with you. For example, they may be living in a nursing home facility.)

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 (IRS 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.

If you are paying for a dependent parent's care so that you can go to work, you may also be eligible to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit; learn more about this tax credit.

Connect With an Elder Law Attorney

If you have questions about whether you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent on your income tax return, consider reaching out to an elder law attorney. They can assist not only with tax planning, but also planning for long-term care, retirement, and more. In addition, they may be able to point you to free resources where you can seek out additional tax advice. Find a qualified elder law attorney near you today.

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