How to Change Dependents for Taxes

A typical income tax form.

Changing your dependents on your taxes is quite easy, as long as you make sure you follow the rules. If you don't, or if you claim someone who was also claimed by someone else, you can trigger an audit. Just follow a few basic rules and use some common sense, and you can easily make the necessary changes.

Check Withholdings

Step 1

Talk to your employer or personnel office to get a copy of your current federal income tax withdrawal/withholding W-4 form. Examine how you are declaring your withdrawals. Examine how many dependents you have claimed currently. Compare the number with how many dependents you know you currently have.

Step 2

Prepare a new W-4 form to make changes to the number of dependents claimed. Adjust your withholding on your paycheck by increasing or decreasing the number of dependents on the form. Fill out the remaining identification information and sign the form when it is correct. Turn the new W-4 form in to your employer's personnel office.

Step 3

Verify on your next paycheck stub that the tax withdrawals implements are consistent with your new W-4 filing. Look for mistakes. Go back and confirm that the personnel office adjusted your withholding correctly if a mistake is found.

Adjust Income Tax Reporting

Step 1

Locate and obtain the appropriate tax form you will use for your federal and state income tax filings for the current tax year. Download the file from the tax agency websites or obtain a hard copy at the local U.S. post office.

Examine the forms and the instructions for those forms regarding filling out the information for dependents. Reference your last tax filings for federal and state to be aware of what you last reported.

Step 2

Change your dependents by providing or eliminating the name, Social Security number and number of dependents you have in the appropriate tax form fields. Confirm the information is correct with name spelling, identification and dates of birth. Make sure the new number of dependents total as the correct number for the new changes.

Step 3

File your income tax forms with the new information. Keep your backup documentation with copies of your tax returns, in case your are reviewed or audited. Have documentation to back up any changes you made to your W-4 withholding form.

Tip

It helps to have an electronic and hard copy of your last filed W-4 forms and your income tax filings, including federal and state version. Keep these copies on file for at least three years in case you are audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or your local state tax agency.

Warning

Do not count someone as a dependent who you know is already reported as someone else's dependent. This will trigger an automatic review by the IRS. Do not falsify any information on your W-4 or your income tax filings. Doing so is a felony, which can result in a fine and/or time in jail.

Things You'll Need

  • Pen or pencil

  • W-4 tax form for the current tax year

  • Federal income tax form for the current tax year

  • State income tax form for the current tax year

  • Computer (optional)

  • Internet access (optional)

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