Federal and State Tax Exemptions for Dependent Children: Who gets to claim them?
The Guidelines provide two options. The first is an agreement between the parents. Usually, this will happen when the parents come to an amicable settlement on all issues. If the parents are already struggling to compromise on other issues, do not be surprised if the opposing party will not agree to your tax dependency proposal. However, it is a possibility for an agreement to be reached. If the agreement is reached, the parents can make any plan for the tax dependency exemption. There are no requirements.
If the parties cannot agree, then the Guidelines provide a formula for determining who will claim and when they will claim. The formula is based on each parent’s proportion to the parties combined adjusted gross income. The formula also does not allow for a parent to claim more than four years in a row. Lets look at some examples to understand how the formula works.
Example 1: Dad makes about $60,000 annually. Mom makes about $40,000 annually. Their combined gross income is $100,000. Dad’s share of the income is 60%, which equates to 3/5. Mom’s share of the income is 40%, or 2/5. Thus, Dad will get to claim the minor child every 3 out of 5 years, and Mom will get to claim the child every 2 out of 5 years.
Example 2: Pretend that in the above example, the parties only have 1 child. Say they have three children now. The parents could continue the pattern as discussed above for all three children. Now if Dad’s income was 33% of the total income or 1/3 and Mom’s income was 67% or 2/3 and they have three children, they could do a similar pattern, or Dad will always claim two children, and Mom will always claim one child. There is some flexibility here.
There are a number of other examples that can come from this formula. Just remember, it depends on the proportion of the parties combined adjusted gross income. Another piece of advice is that the child support worksheets will give you a recommendation as well. So if you are not good at doing math, just take a look at the child support calculator and see what that recommendation is.
Overall, the tax dependency exemption should not be complicated nor cause conflict between the parties. This is why there are guidelines in place to settle those conflicts. However, I do recommend that if you and the other parent are capable of coming to an agreement on your own terms, it will usually be better for you both, and you will feel better about the results.
Contributing Attorney: Billie Tarascio litigates family law and domestic violence cases at Modern Law.
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