What Qualifies Someone as a Dependent?

Reviewed on 2/10/2021
Generally, dependents are spouses and/or any kids under 26 years old.
Generally, dependents are spouses and/or any kids under 26 years old.

Generally, dependents are spouses and/or any kids under 26 years old. A child can be biological, legally adopted, or a stepchild. A dependent may be qualified based on the below parameters:

Parents:

  • A legal father or mother can be dependents if that parent is either more than 65 years of age or is permanently disabled from engaging in a gainful occupation.

Spouse:

  • A husband or wife who is not divorced (still together)

Child:

  • A full-time student as defined by the educational institution at a high school, vocational school, community or junior college, and college or university and who has not attained the age of 22 years (the criteria for age possibly differ from state to state and country to country)
  • 18 years of age and over and because of a physical or mental infirmity who is unable to engage in a gainful occupation
  • A natural child, stepchild, adopted child, or grandchild under 18 years of age

Other relatives (brothers or sisters):

  • An orphaned brother or sister, parents of the individual, and brother or sister who is under 18 years of age
  • A sibling of 18 years of age and over because of physical or mental infirmity who is unable to engage in a gainful occupation
  • A full-time student as defined by the educational institution at a high school, vocational school, community or junior college, and college or university and who is less than 22 years of age (the criteria for age possibly differ from state to state and country to country)
  • Roommates, divorced or legally separated spouses, and unborn children are not considered dependents.

How long can I keep my child on my plan as a dependent?

For the most part, kids can stay on your plan until the age of 26 years even if they

  • Get married.
  • Have a baby or adopt a child.
  • Go to or leave school.

Children can also usually stay on the health plan even if

  • You don’t claim them as tax dependents.
  • You don’t live together.
  • They are offered health insurance by their employer.

What is the difference between a dependent and beneficiary?

A dependent is a person who is eligible for coverage under your income tax returns and health plans. A beneficiary can be a person or legal entity who is designated by you to receive a benefit such as life insurance.

  • For example, if you will be including your spouse in your medical coverage and designating them as a recipient of your life insurance, then your spouse is both a dependent and beneficiary.
  • The person or entity that you designate as a beneficiary, however, may or may not be an eligible dependent. For example, a parent is not an eligible dependent for medical coverage and can only be designated as a beneficiary.

Why do dependents matter?

Identifying and determining the correct number of dependents is a critical component of completing the taxpayer’s return.

  • The more people in your family, the more likely you are to get some financial assistance.
  • Dependents can also be included on your employer’s insurance or your individual health insurance plan including plans sold in the healthcare marketplace. However, you cannot include a dependent on your health plan if they are on Medicare.

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References
Dependents: https://apps.irs.gov/app/vita/content/globalmedia/4491_dependency_exemptions.pdf

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