What Is a Qualifying Relative?

A qualifying relative is a person designated by federal income tax code to be allowed to be claimed as a dependent by a taxpayer assuming the taxpayer provided considerable financial support for the qualifying relative during the tax year. Claiming a qualifying relative as a dependent will allow the taxpayer to take an additional exemption, which will reduce their taxable income dollar for dollar. A qualifying relative does not have to be biologically related to the taxpayer.

Understanding Qualifying Relatives

Qualifying relative is a specific term with a very clear-cut meaning to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As a qualifying relative, a taxpayer can claim that person as a dependent and receive potential tax breaks and credits that may accompany the addition of that person to the household.

Qualifying relatives most commonly include one's dependent spouse or older relative who has come home to live and be taken care of in the household. As a dependent, they must not be earning income and should be relying on the household income provider's for support.

A qualifying relative can be any age.

The IRS requires four tests to be passed for a person to be classified as a qualifying relative.

  1. The qualifying relative must not be a qualifying child of the taxpayer or of anyone else; no taxpayer can claim them on their tax return as a qualifying child.
  2. The qualifying relative must either live in the taxpayer's household all year or be related to the taxpayer as a child, sibling, parent, grandparent, niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, certain in-law or certain step-relative. Someone who is not technically related to the taxpayer can become a qualifying relative by living with the taxpayer all year, and someone who is related to the taxpayer – but doesn’t live with them – can be a qualifying relative. A person who died during the year but lived with the taxpayer until death or who was born during the year and lived with the taxpayer for the rest of the year is considered a qualifying relative, even though that person didn’t live with the taxpayer for the full year.
  3. The qualifying relative must have a gross income of less than $4,150 in 2018. This amount can increase every year.
  4. The qualifying relative must have received more than half of their financial support for the year from the taxpayer.

    Key Takeaways

    • A qualifying relative is an allowance for a non-child dependent of a taxpayer's household to be claimed as a dependent for tax purposes.
    • As a dependent, a qualifying relative can afford the taxpayer tax credits and/or deductions that accompany the addition of that dependent to the household.
    • In order to be eligible as qualifying relative by the IRS, four conditions must be met.

    IRS Qualification Guidelines

    IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deductions, and Filing Information, provides details about meeting the qualifying relative tests, information about being a qualifying child, filing as head of household, special custody and residency situations and other deductions. (Link is to 2017 publication, the latest available as of Oct. 16, 2018.) This official publication gives detailed information about special circumstances, including how to file when multiple taxpayers provide support for the same person; limits of earning salary, hourly wages or receiving money from other sources to stay under the limit for a qualifying relative; and what qualifies a person as living temporarily away from the taxpayer.