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I Forgot to Claim My Adult Son as a Dependent on My Tax Return

All dependent exemptions that the IRS lets you claim for your children, including those who are adults, may save you a significant amount in income taxes. But if you file your taxes and forget to list your adult son as a dependent, you can file an amended return to claim it. However, you have a limited number of years to amend a return, so it’s important to file your IRS Form 1040X before it’s too late to get that additional refund.

Adult Qualifying Children

The first thing you should do before even printing Form 1040X is ensure that your adult son meets all qualifying children criteria. These dependent rules generally preclude you from claiming your son as a dependent once he reaches the age of 19. However, the one exception is if your son is a full-time student for a minimum of five months during the tax year, in which case he can be reported on your tax return as a dependent until the year he turns 24. The remaining qualifying children rules remain unchanged, so it’s also necessary that your adult son not provide more than 50% of the funds that are necessary for his basic support. Lastly, your son must live in your home for more than one-half of the tax year; however, he is considered to be residing with you while he is away at school.

Time Limits to Amend Returns

After you conclude that your adult son can serve as your dependent, thereby allowing you to reduce your income by one more exemption, you’ll then need to evaluate whether you still have time to file an amended tax return to report it. Generally, you must file an amended tax return that will result in a reduction of your tax bill no later than three years after filing the original tax return. To figure out whether you have time, start counting the three years on the tax return filing deadline, which is usually on or around April 15, but only if you actually file on or before this date. For returns you file late or with an extension, you start counting the three years on the date you actually filed the tax return. And depending on when you discover that you could’ve been claiming your adult son as a dependent, you may be able to amend more than one tax return.

IRS Form 1040X

Preparation of an amended tax return always requires Form 1040X. The 1040X form is much shorter than the original 1040 you may have filed, and if the only change you’re making is the addition of your adult son as a dependent, completing your amended return will take no time at all. Since it isn’t necessary to prepare a new tax return, the first step towards completing your 1040X form is to update the dependent exemptions line to account for the addition of your adult son. Taking an additional dependent exemption will, however, affect the rest of your tax return, so you’ll need to recalculate your taxable income, which will decrease.

Your Son’s Education Tax Credits

If your adult son qualifies as your dependent because of their student status, you may want to consider taking an education tax credit for some of his school expenses before you file Form 1040X with the IRS. To qualify for the lifetime learning credit or the American opportunity credit, your son must attend a school that is eligible to offer its students federal financial aid. These credits have additional requirements to satisfy that relate to your son’s course load and the number of years he’s been enrolled in school. Both credits, however, will require you to prepare Form 8863, which must be attached to your 1040X form.

Reference: Instructions for IRS Form 1040X