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Can I Claim My Father on My Income Tax Return if He Receives Social Security?

It is possible, and not uncommon, to claim your father as a qualifying relative dependent on your tax return, but you need to first make sure that his Social Security income is tax-free. The tax laws allow you to claim virtually any person as a qualifying relative dependent, regardless of your relationship to them. But since the dependent is your father, you’re not subject to the requirement that he live with you. However, other qualifying relative tests exist that you must consider before taking the exemption.

Dependents Include Parents

Your father qualifies as your dependent if his income that is subject to tax is less than the personal exemption amount for the relevant tax year. Normally, your father will not pay tax on his Social Security income if he doesn’t have additional sources of income in the same year. Therefore, it won’t affect your eligibility to claim him as a dependent. But even if your father earns other income that’s tax-exempt, he may owe tax on up to half of his Social Security, which can make him ineligible to be your dependent.

Father’s Financial Support

The IRS also wants to ensure that you are providing a significant portion of your father’s financial support. Otherwise, he’s not actually “dependent” on you. As a result, the tax law requires that you contribute more than half of the necessary funds towards his support. For purposes of determining which contributions count as financial support, it isn’t necessary that you actually give your father money. Support includes the expenses you incur for his food, housing, transportation, clothing and medical care.

Sharing Father’s Exemption

In the event you have brothers and sisters who agree to contribute to your father’s financial support, the IRS will let each of you take turns reporting your father as a dependent. This is common when collectively you and your father’s other children provide more than half of his support, but individually none of you contributes more than half. Provided that each sibling contributes more than 10 percent — you can agree to take your father’s exemption in alternating tax years.

Reference: IRS Publication 501-Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information