ASK KIM


Claiming Mom as a Dependent

Kimberly Lankford

Your parents must meet three tests before the IRS will let you take a deduction for the support you provide them.



My father died last year, and my mother's income is now $469 per month. I live in Kentucky and she lives in Alabama, but I help with her expenses. Can I claim her as a dependent?

Probably not for 2006, but perhaps for future years. Because your father died in 2006, your mother probably filed a joint return with him for the year. You generally can't claim a married person as a dependent if they file a joint return, unless they filed the return just to claim a refund and neither spouse would have any tax liability if they had filed separate returns.

But if she meets a trio of tests, she may qualify as your dependent in 2007 and beyond. The three tests: her relationship to you (a parent qualifies); how much you give her (you must provide more than half of her support); and her income (her gross income must be less than the personal exemption, which is $3,300 for 2006 and $3,400 for 2007).

Don't stop reading because your mother's income exceeds the trigger amount. Any part of her income that comes from Social Security doesn't count (no untaxed Social Security benefits do); disability payments are also ignored when applying the $3,300/$3,400 test, says Mel Schwarz, a partner in Grant Thornton's national tax office in Washington, D.C. "If the bottom line on page one of your mother's Form 1040 adds up to less than $3,400 in 2007, then the income test will be met," says Schwarz.

For more details, see IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.




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