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Per IRS Publication 503 Child and Dependent Care Expenses, page 3:

Who is a Qualifying Person?

Your child and dependent care expenses must be for the care of one or more qualifying persons.

A qualifying person is:
  1. Your qualifying child who is your dependent and who was under age 13 when the care was provided (see Child of divorced or separated parents or parents living apart later),
  2. Your spouse who wasn't physically or mentally able to care for himself or herself and lived with you for more than half the year, or
  3. A person who wasn't physically or mentally able to care for himself or herself, lived with you for more than half the year, and either:
    1. Was your dependent, or
    2. Would have been your dependent except that:
      1. He or she received gross income of $4,050 or more,
      2. He or she filed a joint return, or
      3. You, or your spouse if filing jointly, could be claimed as a dependent on someone else's 2016 return.
Dependent defined. A dependent is a person, other than you or your spouse, for whom you can claim an exemption. To be your dependent, a person must be your qualifying child (or your qualifying relative).

Qualifying child. To be your qualifying child, a child must live with you for more than half the year and meet other requirements.

More information. For more information about who is a dependent or a qualifying child, see Publication 501.

Physically or mentally not able to care for oneself. Persons who can't dress, clean, or feed themselves because of physical or mental problems are considered not able to care for themselves. Also, persons who must have constant attention to prevent them from injuring themselves or others are considered not able to care for themselves.

Person qualifying for part of year. You determine a person's qualifying status each day. For example, if the person for whom you pay child and dependent care expenses no longer qualifies on September 16, count only those expenses through September 15. Also see Yearly limit under Dollar Limit, later.

Birth or death of otherwise qualifying person. In determining whether a person is a qualifying person, a person who was born or died in 2016 is treated as having lived with you for more than half of 2016 if your home was the person's home more than half the time he or she was alive in 2016.

Taxpayer identification number. You must include on your return the name and taxpayer identification number (generally the social security number) of the qualifying person(s). If the correct information isn't shown, the credit may be reduced or disallowed.

Individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) for aliens. If your qualifying person is a nonresident or resident alien who doesn't have and can't get a social security number (SSN), use that person's ITIN. The ITIN is entered wherever an SSN is requested on a tax return. If the alien doesn't have an ITIN, he or she must apply for one. See Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, for details.

An ITIN is for tax use only. It doesn't entitle the holder to social security benefits or change the holder's employment or immigration status under U.S. law.

CAUTION! Beginning in 2017, the IRS will deactivate an ITIN that hasn’t been used on at least one tax return in the last three years. In 2016, all ITINs with middle digits of 78 and 79 will expire. All expired ITINs must be renewed before being used on your tax return. See IRS.gov for more information.

Adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN). If your qualifying person is a child who was placed in your home for adoption and for whom you don't have an SSN, you must get an ATIN for the child. File Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions.

Child of divorced or separated parents or parents living apart. Even if you can't claim your child as a dependent, he or she is treated as your qualifying person if:
  • The child was under age 13 or wasn't physically or mentally able to care for himself or herself,
  • The child received over half of his or her support during the calendar year from one or both parents who are divorced or legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance, are separated under a written separation agreement, or lived apart at all times during the last 6 months of the calendar year,
  • The child was in the custody of one or both parents for more than half the year, and
  • You were the child's custodial parent.
The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lived for the greater number of nights in 2016. If the child was with each parent for an equal number of nights, the custodial parent is the parent with the higher adjusted gross income. For details and an exception for a parent who works at night, see Publication 501.

The noncustodial parent can't treat the child as a qualifying person even if that parent is entitled to claim the child as a dependent under the special rules for a child of divorced or separated parents.

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