DEFINITION of 'Joint Return Test'

One of the tests administered by the IRS that potential dependents must pass in order to be claimed as such by another taxpayer. The joint return test stipulates that no dependent can file a joint return with a spouse and still be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return, such as that of a parent or guardian. There are, however, exceptions to this rule.

BREAKING DOWN 'Joint Return Test'

A taxpayer filing a joint return can be claimed as a dependent under two separate exceptions. One is when neither the dependent nor his or her spouse is required to file a tax return, except to claim a refund. The other is when neither the dependent nor his or her spouse would owe any tax if he or she were to file separately instead of jointly. In these cases, another taxpayer may claim this person as a dependent.

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