How Long Can You Claim Your Kids on Your Taxes?

Raising kids is expensive, but claiming them as dependents helps because of the tax benefits, starting with a dependent exemption for each eligible child. You may also qualify for one or more additional tax write-offs or credits. The Internal Revenue Service has several age limits for claiming kids and specific tax benefits for children. Your particular situation determines which age rules apply.


IRS Dependent Age Tests

You can claim kids as dependents if they are under age 19 at the end of the year. The IRS extends the limit for children who are enrolled in school at least five months during the year. In this case, you can claim a student who is younger than 24. There is no age restriction to claim a child who is permanently disabled. Some of the tax breaks you can get for dependent kids have their own age limits. You may qualify for the Child Tax Credit as long as a dependent child is under age 17. If you have to pay for a caregiver so you can work, you may be eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Credit until a child is 13 years old.


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Other Tests for Dependents

Age isn't the only criterion for claiming kids on your taxes. Your home must be the child's main residence for more than half of the year and she can't provide more than 50 percent of her own support. Qualifying children have to be related to you. For instance, grandchildren, siblings and adopted children can qualify. Married children can't file a joint return except to claim a refund. Dependent children have to be United States citizens, nationals or residents of the U.S., Canada or Mexico.


Tax Benefits of Dependent Children

Besides the dependent exemption and tax credits already mentioned, you may qualify for head of household filing status when you claim a kid on your taxes. There are also tax breaks for education. You might be eligible for the American Opportunity Credit, a lifetime learning credit and tax write-offs for tuition, fees and student loan interest that you pay on behalf of a dependent child.