When you have a child, you're eligible to claim that child as a dependent on your tax return. However, in some cases, separated parents may both claim a child as a dependent, or someone else may claim your child. When this happens, there's no official way to find out who did it, but there are a few ways through which you can resolve this issue.
IRS Privacy Rules
The IRS protects tax information very carefully. As a result, there's no legal or official way to find out who claimed your child on his or her tax return. In most cases, you'll never know that someone else claimed your child, unless you get a notice that your return is rejected because someone has already claimed your dependent. Two people can't claim the same dependent, so eventually, you'll receive this notice if you and someone else both claim your child.
Who Knows Your Child's Information?
One way you can make a guess at who else has claimed your child is by considering who else knows your child's personal information. In order to claim a child as a dependent, the claimant would need to know your child's name, Social Security number and date of birth. It may be an ex-spouse or someone who had access to your home and personal records, such as a babysitter or relative.
Claim Your Child
When someone else claims your child on their taxes, you only have two ways to resolve the issue. You can file a Form 3949-A: Information Referral, reporting an alleged violation of income tax law, or you can simply file your taxes claiming your child.
A Form 3949-A requires you to know who claimed your child. If you don't know who claimed your child, the best way to resolve the issue is to simply file your taxes and list your child, which will cause the IRS to open an investigation. You may need to file your taxes by mail, as electronic filing may cause a rejection of your return due to duplicate dependent claims.
Provide Proof of Eligibility
When two people claim the same dependent on their taxes, it triggers an audit or investigation by the IRS, whereby both claimants must provide proof of their right to claim the dependent. The residency test states that the dependent must reside with the claimant for more than half the year, and meeting this criteria may be enough to resolve the claim. Simply gather up any school or medical records that show your child resides with you at your address.
If you're not the custodial parent, you may need to provide relevant forms, such as Form 8332, which is what a custodial parent uses to waive his right to claim a child as a dependent. Another form of proof would be your divorce decree. Many times, who gets to claim the child as a dependent on their taxes is spelled out in this document. In some cases, both parties have opted to claim their children in alternating years. In cases with more than one child, the divorce decree may state that one parent gets to claim child A, while the other gets to claim child B.