How to Claim Disabled Adults as Dependents on Income Tax Returns

A husband embraces his wife, who sits in a wheelchair.
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Caring for a disabled adult might qualify for an extra tax benefit by claiming that person as a dependent on your return. To be considered permanently and totally disabled by the Internal Revenue Service, the person you claim must not be able to do any substantial gainful activity and a doctor must decide the condition must be expected to last for at least a year or end in death. To claim the person as a dependent, the person must meet either the qualifying child or qualifying relative criteria set forth by the IRS.


Qualifying Child Criteria

Typically, a person must be under 19 years old to meet the criteria as a qualifying child. However, there is no age limit if the person is totally and permanently disabled, according to IRS Publication 17. In addition, to meet the criteria, the person must be your descendant (including stepchildren and foster children), your sibling (including half-siblings and step-siblings) or a descendant of a sibling. The person must have lived with you for at least half the year and cannot have provided more than half his own support. The person claimed cannot file a joint tax return unless he is doing so only to claim a refund of taxes withheld.


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Qualifying Relative Criteria

"Qualifying relatives" is a misnomer in that the person doesn't actually have to be related to you. But, the person must live with you for the entire year as part of your household unless the person is your child, sibling, parent, aunt or uncle, grandparent or child of your sibling. The person's income cannot exceed the deduction for an exemption ($3,950 as of the 2014 tax year), and you must provide more than half the person's support. Income generally includes any payments that aren't exempt from tax, including Social Security disability payments, even if the person has other deductions to reduce that income. There is a special exception that excludes income for a disabled adult working at a sheltered workshop -- which is a school providing special training for disabled people and run by a tax-exempt group or government -- because of his disability.


Claiming Dependents

If the disabled adult meets the criteria for you to claim her as a dependent, either as a qualifying child or qualifying relative, you must file your taxes with either Form 1040A or Form 1040. On either return, on line 6, column 1, report the person's name. In column 2, report the person's Social Security number. In column 3, report the person's relationship to you. Each dependent you claim reduces your taxable income by $3,950, as of the 2014 tax year.


Records to Keep

If you claim a disabled adult on your taxes, keep records to show that you meet each of the criteria. While it's easy to show that someone lived with you the entire year, such as by having an ID with your home as the person's address, it's more complicated to show you meet the support test. To do so, keep track of all of the person's support costs during the year, including "food, lodging, clothing, education, medical and dental care, recreation, transportation, and similar necessities," according to IRS Publication 17. Then, keep records to show how much of those costs you paid and the adult paid to verify that either the person didn't pay more than half their costs if you're claiming her as a qualifying child or that you paid more than half her costs if you're claiming her as a qualifying relative.