How to Claim a Spouse as a Dependent on Taxes

You may be able to lower your tax bill by claiming your spouse as a dependent.

Every year, the federal government (and most states) requires citizens to file tax returns for wages they earned during the year. The more you earn, the higher your tax liability may be. However, you might be able to reduce the amount of tax you owe in a number of ways. If your spouse does not need to file a tax return, or if you provide more than half of your spouse's support, you can claim your spouse as a dependent on your tax returns.

Claiming Your Spouse as a Dependent

Step 1

Make sure your spouse qualifies. Your spouse must be a U.S. citizen, a resident alien or a citizen of Mexico or Canada. You must provide at least half of your spouse's financial support; and your spouse cannot have more than $2,900 of taxable income.

Step 2

Gather receipts for expenses you and your spouse incurred during the year. If you plan to itemize on your tax return, you'll need to have receipts as proof of your expenditures to take advantage of the allowable deductions.

Step 3

Decide how you are going to file your taxes. You might decide to pay a tax professional to file for you or you might choose to prepare your own taxes. The Internet has made it possible for taxpayers to use online tax preparation software to prepare accurate tax returns and to e-file conveniently using a service such as TurboTax Online.

Step 4

Make sure you've entered your spouse's Social Security number on the tax return. You need to enter the individual's Social Security number, even if your spouse had no income. The IRS requires this so that dependents cannot be claimed by multiple taxpayers.

Step 5

File your taxes before the annual filing deadline, which is usually April 15. If you mail your printed tax return the old-fashioned way, make sure you drop it in the mail by the deadline; otherwise, the IRS may assess a late-filing penalty.