Can I claim my fiance as a dependent if we didn't live together in 2014?
February 7, 2015 7:01 PM   Subscribe

My official residency last year was in GA with my mother, but I paid for my fiance's food, rent, and all living cost throughout the year. She is a resident of AL and the all utilities plus her apartment lease is in her name even though I paid for everything.

We are planning on getting married this year and officially moving in together, but I am confused on what I can claim on my taxes since all the bills I paid were in here name solely. My main concern is with her mom who is not backing down from claiming my fiance on her taxes despite only paying for her health insurance and nothing else. Even if I'm entitled to the deduction I'm worried I may get audited since all the bills and living expenses were in her name and I don't have all of the receipts to prove where the money came from.

Should I claim her as dependent?
posted by isopropyl to Law & Government (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, you have to cohabitate since you're not related.
posted by Trifling at 7:06 PM on February 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

A dependent typically has to be a child or relative.
posted by jpe at 7:12 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

If what you've described is accurate, it seems unlikely that either you or her mom are entitled to claim her as a dependent. You didn't live with her, and her mom didn't (I assume) provide at least half of her financial support last year. IANATaxProfessional, but I suspect that if either one of you claims her, and the IRS challenges it, you'd be in trouble.
posted by decathecting at 7:13 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, but what if I stayed with her in AL the majority if not 99% of the year. My drivers license is from GA and I use that address (my parents address) on most things. My reasoning for this was to maintain in-state tuition my senior year of college... does this really disqualify me if I paid for all of her living expenses due to her being unemployed?
posted by isopropyl at 7:14 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Test for dependency.
Multiple support agreement.

You probably need to sit down and work through these two links. I'm not sure of some specifics about your girlfriend which are needed, like income/age/school attendance.

Perhaps between your mother and hers they could qualify for the multiple support agreement?
posted by Trifling at 7:19 PM on February 7, 2015

does this really disqualify me if I paid for all of her living expenses?

So you're asking if having lied about where you live to one government department might prevent you from getting a tax break for where you actually live from another government department? Yea, it might. You should probably also consider which state you plan on filing your income taxes in.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:22 PM on February 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

Wait, misread her as living with your mother. Yeah, you're probably both out of luck, since you don't 'count' even if you paid her living expenses, and her mother didn't contribute enough.

Yeah, since you provide over 50%, no one looks to count for getting the exemption.
posted by Trifling at 7:24 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you're going to have to choose between filing taxes in Georgia to attempt be considered a Georgia resident and keep your in-state tuition benefit (and yes, colleges in the state of Georgia will absolutely come after you retroactively if you committed tuition fraud), and filing taxes in Alabama so that you can claim your fiancee as a dependent if you can qualify her as a "household member," which you may or may not be able to do. And by the way, doing the former won't necessarily keep Georgia from investigating to get back the money you owe them if, in fact, you were not entitled to in-state tuition under state law and/or the rules of your college.
posted by decathecting at 7:25 PM on February 7, 2015

Response by poster: Neither her or either of our parents paid for anything. I solely supported her and myself and the only reason my name isn't on everything was due to maintaining my in-state tuition from the previous year. We are moving back to GA this year and that's where I'm filing my return... I'm hung up on my residency being elsewhere due to tuition costs, but I feel like I am entitled to the deduction despite that. Would I be better off getting a CPA or tax preparer?
posted by isopropyl at 7:26 PM on February 7, 2015

You can consult a CPA or a tax preparer, but if they're competent at their jobs, they're going to tell you what's in IRS Publication 17, which says, among other things, that in order to be your dependent, a person either has to be related to you or has to live with you. And if you tell the government that you lived with your fiancee in Alabama, and then Georgia finds out about it, they can try to come after you for the tuition money.

And if what I found after a little googling of "Georgia in state tuition fraud" is accurate, you may want to consult an attorney anyway on the tuition issue anyway, regardless of what you decide to do about your taxes, because Georgia apparently arrests people and charges them with felony theft for falsely claiming to live in Georgia in order to get in-state tuition.
posted by decathecting at 7:31 PM on February 7, 2015 [9 favorites]

Below is verbatim from my CPA prep materials.

"Multiple support agreement. One person of a group that together provides more than 50% of the support of an individual may, pursuant to agreement, be allowed the dependency exemption amount.
The person must be otherwise eligible to claim the exemption and must provide more than 10% of the support.

NO other person may provide more than 50% of the support.

And from the IRS,

"Multiple Support Agreement

Sometimes no one provides more than half of the support of a person. Instead, two or more persons, each of whom would be able to take the exemption but for the support test, together provide more than half of the person's support.

Member of Household or Relationship Test

To meet this test, a person must either:

Live with you all year as a member of your household, or

Be related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you.

To meet this test, a person must either:

Live with you all year as a member of your household, or

Be related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you .

If at any time during the year the person was your spouse, that person cannot be your qualifying relative. However, see Personal Exemptions , earlier.

Relatives who do not have to live with you. A person related to you in any of the following ways does not have to live with you all year as a member of your household to meet this test.
Your child, stepchild, foster child, or a descendant of any of them (for example, your grandchild). (A legally adopted child is considered your child.)

Your brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, or stepsister.

Your father, mother, grandparent, or other direct ancestor, but not foster parent.

Your stepfather or stepmother.

A son or daughter of your brother or sister.

A son or daughter of your half brother or half sister.

A brother or sister of your father or mother.

Your son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law."

You don't count because you fail more than just the support test (since she is not your relative according to the IRS) and you provide more than 50%, so her mother doesn't count either.
posted by Trifling at 7:48 PM on February 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

The "who lives in what state" is a red herring here. IRS Pub 17 states that a "dependent" is a "qualifying child" or a "qualifying relative". A girlfriend cannot be claimed as a dependent as she is not your child or your relative.
posted by notme at 7:56 PM on February 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

This is one of the benefits of getting married. A non-related adult can't be a dependent.
posted by pippin at 8:29 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Spending money on something doesn't mean you get to deduct it. I don't think your girlfriend can be your dependent at all, regardless of circumstances. I'm not a tax person so this could be wrong, but if you're seriously looking into this, I would start by trying to figure out that issue.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:45 PM on February 7, 2015

You may want to see whether your fiancee will qualify for any tax credits (EITC, etc.) if she files as single, head of household (which she likely will have to). And then ask her whether she'd be willing to give you her refund, to repay the support you gave her. I don't know what kind of relationship the two of you have with money, but that seems at least potentially to make things a little more fair.
posted by decathecting at 9:23 PM on February 7, 2015

Yeah, wow, do not do. Not only is she not your relative, but the state you claim to live in on your taxes is the one your voter registration, in state tuition, etc, are all going to have to match. You may be able to dig yourself out a deduction if you fudge things enough but you'll get Al Caponed. (Or Mitt Romneyed ... I subscribe to the theory that he filed taxes in a different state while voting in Mass and that's why he wouldn't release his taxes - it's criminal fraud.) Georgia would be DELIGHTED to see Alabama on your tax returns and promptly hand you a bill.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:34 PM on February 7, 2015

In other words, you must have maintained a the joint household in Alabama to consider a girlfriend you are not married to as a dependent and you will have to file with that domicile as your primary address. However, you must have a primary domicile in Georgia for the preceding 12 months and pay Georgia state taxes to qualify for in state tuition. You're going to have to choose between your in-state tuition and the chance of a possible dependent deduction, and pick which residence you will claim as primary. You can't have both.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:43 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I feel like I am entitled to the deduction despite that.

The IRS doesn't care what you feel like you're entitled to. If you aren't going to believe a thread full of people giving you good advice with links to official, supporting documentation, then yes you should absolutely go to a tax professional and allow them to tell you that this isn't going to happen.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:29 PM on February 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

A non-related adult can't be a dependent.

False. They can, but they have to live in your household for the whole year. See TurboTax.

My ex-fiancé claimed me and our two children on his taxes while we lived together. However, as explained pretty well above, you cannot claim your girlfriend AND your Georgia in-state benefits.
posted by celtalitha at 10:34 PM on February 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Why don't you look into a tax deductible gifts? You can claim the cost of living expenses as a gift to her. I believe you can gift up to 10,000 usd per year, but check with a CPA about whether a gift to her would qualify as she is not a child or family member.

Also, better to do your tax planning at the beginning of the year than at the end.
posted by zia at 1:10 AM on February 8, 2015

Re zia's comment: There's no such thing as "tax deductible gifts," except those made to qualified charitable organizations. There are rules that apply to monetary gifts to family members, but those focus on not having to pay taxes on the gift, not being able to deduct them. And again, the definition of a family member does not include girlfriend or fiance. Source.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:34 AM on February 8, 2015

Yeah, the $10K / year thing (it's actually $14K per year this year) is the threshold for non-taxable gifts. Gifts to individuals are subject to gift tax, but we have this $14K per year exclusion.
posted by jpe at 4:57 AM on February 8, 2015

So basically, you want to have it both ways: Georgia residency for the tuition break, Alabama for claiming her as a dependent. Sorry, but that's gonna be a massive no dice, and will only lead to trouble with the IRS and Georgia and possibly also from Alabama.

You're already committing tuition fraud on the state of Georgia, which it's probably safe to assume you do not want to bring to their attention, as per the various posters above who have pointed out the legal hammer Georgia will bring down on your head, if/when they discover it. Don't file in Alabama if you are claiming to be a legal resident of Georgia: don't add tax fraud to your list, especially since you cannot legally claim your girlfriend as a dependent.

Basic rule of life: do not mess with the taxman. File as a Georgia resident, and forget trying to claim your girlfriend as your dependent.
posted by easily confused at 6:09 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dude, if this were allowable then guys could claim their mistresses as dependents.

No. Just no. If you want, marry the woman and file married filing jointly.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:15 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can't claim a mistress as a dependent as the relationship probably violates the law. Otherwise, you certainly can claim a girlfriend in the right circumstances, namely the shared habitat that we do not have here.
posted by ftm at 6:38 AM on February 8, 2015

If you want, marry the woman and file married filing jointly.

Even if you married her today, that wouldn't affect your 2014 taxes at all.
posted by desjardins at 8:28 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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