What Is a Citizen Test?

A citizen test, also called a “resident test,” determines whether a taxpayer can claim a dependent under rules set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The claimed dependent must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. resident, a resident of Mexico or Canada, or an adopted child who has lived with the taxpayer for the entire year. If none of these criteria is met, then the person cannot be claimed as a dependent. A citizen test should not be confused with a citizenship test, which is the test given to immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.

Key Takeaways

  • A citizen test determines whether you can claim a dependent on your taxes per rules set by the IRS.
  • To qualify, the dependent must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. resident, a resident of Canada or Mexico, or an adopted child who has lived with you for the entire year.
  • A citizen test should not be confused with a citizenship test, which is given to immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.

How a Citizen Test Works

The citizen test, from Internal Revenue Code Section 152, is one of several tests that must be met in order for someone to be claimed as a dependent. The others are the relationship, age, residency, joint return, and support tests.

A U.S. citizen is either born in the U.S. or naturalized, which is a legal process established by Congress. U.S. citizens whose children are born outside the United States and who do not regularly reside in the U.S. can use the “Application for Certificate of Citizenship” to apply for citizenship for their children when certain conditions are satisfied. Furthermore, both parent and child must interview with a U.S. immigration officer, and the child must satisfy required conditions at the time their Oath of Allegiance is taken.

If you were a U.S. citizen when your child was born, but your spouse was not and your child was born in a foreign country, the child may be a U.S. citizen, in which case you can take the exemption—even if the child lives abroad with the alien parent.

If you were a U.S. citizen when your child was born, the child may be a U.S citizen even if the other parent was a nonresident and the child was born in a foreign country. In this case, as long as the other dependency tests are met, the child is your dependent and you may take the exemption—even if the child lives abroad with the nonresident alien parent.

If you are a U.S. citizen living abroad who has legally adopted a child who is not a U.S. citizen or resident, and the other dependency tests are met, the child is deemed to be your dependent. Therefore, you may take the exemption if your home is the child’s main residence and the child is a member of your household for your entire tax year.