Filing for child tax credit separately
January 3, 2008 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Is it legal to file for child tax credit separately?

We have three children and will get roughly $7,000 back on our return this year if my girlfriend claims all three children on her own. If I claim one our kids on my own, she'll get about $6,000 and I'll get $2,500 which would help us out a lot more than her claiming them all. Is this legal? It seems like a good idea when it comes to the return, but I don't know if we'd be allowed to do it like that or not. Any advice?
posted by mithiirym to Law & Government (7 answers total)
There appear to be a lot of variables apparent (not married) and not so apparent (how you file, deductions, etc), so please talk to a tax professional for your own sake.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:39 AM on January 3, 2008

Not a tax attorney, so I'm hesitant to give you an firm answer, but from the looks of it you wouldn't be automatically disqualified for the credit. However, you don't give enough information in the question for anyone—even a tax attorney—to decide. You need to look into it further with the help of a tax professional. Too many variables.

Here's a link to Publication 17, which may help you. The parts you may find relevant are filing status (22), personal exemptions and dependents (26), Qualifying Child (28), Child Tax Credit (224), Earned Income Credit (234).

But anyway, seeking a consultation with a tax professional (and please avoid Jackson Hewitt or H&R Block) is the advice I'd give.
posted by Weebot at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2008

As long as they're not claimed twice and you could (if you had to, which is unlikely) establish guardianship or parenthood, no problem. People do it all the time, according to my IRS pal.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:16 AM on January 3, 2008

I am not a tax lawyer. I am not YOUR tax lawyer, though I do wind up doing a lot of tax law research in my day to day job.

Okay, so determine a dependent, there are a series of tests you have to give the situation -- does the potential dependent live with you as a member of your household for more than 1/2 the year (or are they in an excusable situation, like being away at school)? Do you cover more than 1/2 of their support costs? And finally, can anyone else claim them as a dependent? (Which really means, *will* anyone else claim them?)*

If the child you're planning to claim passes all of these tests, then go ahead -- honestly, it's really not unusual to divvy up kids among family members so that everyone can get the child tax credit. (My company works with low-income households and this happens ALL THE TIME.) The really really huge thing is to be VERY clear on who is claiming whom, and don't both of you accidentally claim the same kid -- that will raise flags at the IRS and your return will be rejected.

*yes, there are other tests depending on age/disability/a whole bunch other things, but these are the majors.
posted by kalimac at 11:28 AM on January 3, 2008

But anyway, seeking a consultation with a tax professional (and please avoid Jackson Hewitt or H&R Block) is the advice I'd give.

Okay, sorry to get on a soapbox, but I would very much like to call attention to this and second it. Loudly. Repeatedly. These two tax firms don't offer consistent training, and the accuracy of their advice isn't guarenteed. You'd be better off going to a VITA site for free, good tax advice. (Or hiring a tax lawyer, but I'm a big fan of free :) )
posted by kalimac at 11:32 AM on January 3, 2008

Here is my question to this situation....would not the IRS track who files for the child? I know of the millions of children there are, such a tracking system seems ridiculous. However, would the IRS consider it a bit fishy that the child is being represented by a different person, or would they not even notice? Would the IRS investigate that further and question the new party asking for a tax credit with proof if the child does live with them and fit the dependent status?
posted by dnthomps at 11:06 PM on January 3, 2008

dnthomps: The IRS generally doesn't care as long as the child isn't claimed twice, or claimed by someone who can't legitimately claim them. However, should you make a bad claim, they do have a processing system in place that would weed out bad dependent claims pretty well, despite there being millions of children to track.

kalimac: I'm a big fan of the VITA program as well—hell, I'm running a couple of the sites in Orange County—but if you have complicated tax work you should not go to them. Their basic training, while much better than H&R Block's, is still minimal. Something like the poster's question would definitely be something that a VITA volunteer could do easily, though. Unlike H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, VITA volunteers have no liability—if they did, no one who would want to volunteer (though in practice, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt employees aren't liable either).

On the plus side, VITA sites tends to attract a lot of retired CPAs, who are far and away better than anything you'll get at those two firms.
posted by Weebot at 8:41 AM on January 4, 2008

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