Important Facts about Dependents and Exemptions

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Nearly everyone who files a tax return is entitled to a freebie tax deduction called an exemption. If you are married or claim dependents on your return, you get additional exemptions and a bigger deduction from income. For 2013, you are allowed to deduct $3,900 for each exemption claimed on your federal return.

There are two types of exemptions: personal exemptions and dependent exemptions. We'll explain the two types of exemptions and also answer some questions you might have.

Personal Exemptions

You can generally claim one exemption for yourself. If you are married and file a joint return, you can also claim one exemption for your spouse. In certain situations, you may be allowed to claim your spouse's exemption on a separate return.

Can I claim my spouse as a dependent?

You cannot claim your spouse as a dependent. Claiming your spouse's exemption is different than claiming your spouse as a dependent, but the effect on the return is the same. The exemption is $3,900 regardless of whether it's a personal exemption or a dependent exemption.

Can I claim my own exemption if someone else can claim me as a dependent?

If someone else can claim you as a dependent, then you cannot claim a personal exemption on your return. The rule applies even if the other person does not actually claim you.

Dependent Exemptions

You can claim one exemption for each person claimed as a dependent on your return but several tests must be met in order to claim someone as a dependent. If you are not sure whether you can claim someone as a dependent, use the interactive Dependent Quiz in TaxAct's Federal Q&A to guide you through the IRS rules.

Does my dependent have to file a return?

A separate return must be filed for a dependent if filing requirements are met. Generally, a dependent is required to file a return if he or she had more than $6,100 of wage or other earned income, or if total interest, dividend, and capital gain income was more than $1,000. Several other factors must also be taken into account, such as age, filing status and any special taxes that may apply.

Can I enter my dependent's income on my return?

You generally cannot include your dependent's income on your return. An exception to this rule allows you to include the dependent's investment income on your return in certain situations. Investment income for this exception includes interest, dividends and capital gain distributions.

Claiming Exemptions on Your Return

With TaxAct, your exemptions are calculated automatically as you complete your return. We'll also guide you through other tax benefits that might apply to make sure you claim everything you're entitled to and get the biggest refund possible.