Someone Else Claimed My Dependent

Did the IRS reject your tax return because someone else claimed your dependent?

Claiming a dependent is usually pretty simple: you give the IRS their social security number, certifying that your relationship with that person satisfies a few simple rules.

Things can get more complicated, especially if someone else also claims the same person as a dependent. If they file their return first, the IRS will assume it’s legitimate and award them the full tax benefit of the dependent. When you attempt to e-file your return, it will be rejected.

What can you do then?

The process is fairly straightforward. After your e-filed return has been rejected because someone else claimed the same dependent, you need to file a paper return. You can still prepare your return online. Instead of e-filing, you will need to print it out, sign it, and mail it to the IRS.

With your return, include a cover letter explaining your situation to the IRS as well as evidence proving that you have the right to claim the dependent (ie: medical records, school records, etc.).

The IRS will then review both returns claiming that dependent and determine which person should be claiming the dependent based on tax law.

The first thing to do is to make sure that you actually can claim the person in question as a dependent. There are two types of dependents, qualifying children and qualifying relatives, and both have different requirements.

Criteria for claiming a qualifying child

In order to claim someone as a qualifying child, he or she must

  • Be your biological or adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half sibling, step-sibling, or a descendant of one of these
  • Be under age 19, under age 24 if a full-time student, or any age if permanently and totally disabled
  • Remain a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Not be married, or be married but not filing a joint return
  • Have lived with you for at least half the year.
  • Not have provided more than half of his or her own support

Criteria for claiming a qualifying relative

In order to claim someone as a qualifying relative, he or she must

  • Have lived with you all year as a member of your household, or be one of the following family members: child, parent, sibling, stepparent, stepchild, step-sibling, half sibling, grandparent, grandchild, child-in-law, parent-in-law, sibling-in-law, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew. 
  • Remain a U.S. citizen or resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico
  • Not be married, or be married but not filing a joint return
  • Not be a qualifying child of you or someone else
  • Have a gross income of less than $4,000
  • Have more than half of their total support for the year provided by you

When you sent your cover letter and evidence along with your return, you should strive to prove that you satisfy all of the requirements for the type of dependent that you are trying to claim.

Can I find out who claimed my dependent?

The IRS can’t tell you who else has claimed the dependent for several reasons. One is that since they don’t know who made the right claim, they don’t want to violate the privacy of someone who really is claiming their own child. Another is that there’s always the potential for mistakes, and it doesn’t make much sense to punish someone for accidentally writing a “4” that looks like a “9” when copying a Social Security number.

What if two people both meet the requirements to claim a dependent?

If two different people both have the right to claim the dependent according to the criteria listed above, the IRS will generally award the dependent to the person with whom the dependent lived for the greatest amount of time during the tax year. If the dependent lived with both people for an equal amount of time, then the IRS will award the dependent to the taxpayer with the higher AGI.

Why dependents require a Social Security number

For a while, dependents didn’t require a Social Security number at all. The IRS used to take taxpayers’ word for it when they claimed dependents. But in 1987, the rule changed to require taxpayers to give a Social Security number for every dependent they claimed. And suddenly, seven million dependents disappeared. Many of them were probably due to misunderstandings: two divorced parents each claiming all of their kids, for example. But others could have been due to shady behavior, including claiming children while knowing someone else would claim them, or even fabricating dependents entirely.

Prevent this in the future

The problem can be solved by mailing in a paper return. But how do you prevent this from happening in future years? The IRS is working to improve its safeguards against tax fraud and identity theft, but these aren’t perfect. The best thing you can do to prevent someone else from claiming your dependent is to file your taxes as early as possible. That way your e-filed return will be accepted and theirs will be rejected. You’ll get your refund on time and they will be required to prove they meet the dependent criteria.

Some food for thought

In situations like the ones discussed above, there tends to be emotion involved from both parties. The IRS is required to base all final decisions solely on tax law. When dealing with the IRS, it is most productive to stick to the facts.  This will save you time and stress.



745 Replies to “Someone Else Claimed My Dependent”

  1. My “mother” falsely claimed me on her tax return, what do I do? I haven’t been living with her for over a year, I was 18 when I moved out, I wasn’t even living with her before then (I was living with my grandparents), and she claimed me (at 18, I’m 19 now), she disowned me several times, did not financially support me for over 2 years, but yet still had the audacity to claim me as a dependent (the situation itself is much longer and complicated but this is the short version). Note: I only worked about a month or so but still received a pay stub from the company, can I file fraud against her?

    1. Hello Maria,

      Taxpayers can claim dependents as long as they are qualifying relatives or children that they have financially supported, (in which the qualifying child earns below the income threshold) and have lived with them for more than half the year. Typically, in order to dispute a dependent claim, you will need to file a paper return in which you are claiming yourself, include a cover letter explaining the situation and why you are claiming yourself independently. The IRS will then assess your case. We advise that you contact the IRS directly at 1800-829-1040 for further instructions.

  2. I have joint custody of my grand daughter from mon-fri her mother has her the weekends. We live with my son in law whose my granddaughters uncle. I allow him to claim her because he financially takes care of her. Her mother went and claimed her already. When he tried to efile it rejected it so he mailed his return. I see this as wrong because she lives with us much more time of the year than her mother. In family court i also heard the judge say i have the physical custody of my grandaughter. Her mother is just being spiteful.I did a form 3949 on her mother and im thinking we should call the irs or just wait for the audit? His return is currently processing. Is her return going to automatically get audited also? Please assist thanks

  3. Ok, So I have full custody of my children awarded to me in 2017. She had them 69 days before this happened.
    It’s my understanding that you have to have them living with you for 6 months to claim them on taxes. I cant file them due to injury that keeps me from working. So to my knowledge shes filing for the kids when my parents are trying to file for the kids. (lived with them and me 296 days of 2017) I see on here that tie-breaker rule states 1) if one party is a parent they will win over a non-parent is that true in this case as well?

  4. My nephew Baby mother signed over rights to her daughter for TWO YEARS NEVER NOT ONCE CONTRIBUTED TO HER WELL BEING. So this year I planned to put her on my taxes for her trifling mother to tell me she already claimed her last year and this year like really. How do you claim a child you gave birth to but have not taken care of in TWO YEARS ? On top of claiming her other two children that are not in her care ! Like WOW !

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