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Can I claim my spouse as a dependent if he or she is not working?

Claiming dependents on tax returns can result in thousands of dollars in savings when you file. The IRS has rules as to who can be claimed as one.

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Under no circumstance can a spouse be claimed as a dependent, even if they have no income. Furthermore, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated personal exemptions for tax years 2018 through 2025.

However, tax credits for dependents were increased along with standard deductions based on filing status. If you spouse doesn’t work, it would be more beneficial to use the married filing jointly to get the $19,400 deduction versus the $12,950 one for married filing separately. An additional standard deduction of $1,400 will apply to those who are either 65 and older or blind, and the amount doubles if both apply to a taxpayer in 2022.

Married taxpayers cannot use the Head of Household status in the event that their spouse doesn’t work. In order to file a tax return as a Head of Household you must be unmarried or considered unmarried along with having a dependent child.

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Who can be claimed as a dependent?

There are several potential situations in which you may be able to claim a person as your dependent, just not your non-working spouse. But there are situations in which a boyfriend/girlfriend or domestic partner could potentially qualify.

The IRS breaks it down into two categories, a qualifying child and a qualifying relative, each one has its own requirements. The IRS provides an online questionnaire that taxpayers can use to determine if the person they are financially supporting qualifies as their dependent.

The rest of the requirements include a partner being a permanent member of your household. There are some exceptions for temporary absences – they will not lose the status due to vacations or medical treatments – but your home must be listed as their official residence for the entire year.

Your non-married partner cannot be claimed as a tax dependent if they had a 2022 gross income of more than $4,400. Gross income includes any income that is subject to federal taxations, i.e. wages, investment earnings, interest payments.

You must be able to prove that your partner does depend on your financially. This means that you must have provided them with at least half of their total support, which includes food, clothing, shelter, education and any medical or dental expenses.


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