Friday, July 18, 2008

Children and claiming them on taxes

Here is one to file away for next year when doing your taxes.

When does a parent get to claim a child as an exemption on the federal income taxes? This depends on the Order creating the child support obligation. That would be - generally speaking - the Decree of Paternity or the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. The Decree should set out who gets the exemption and when. The general terms I am used to seeing are:

  1. Alternating years;
  2. The non-custodial parent is current on support; and
  3. If not alternating, then splitting the children between the parties.
What if the Decree says nothing about the tax exemption? Then federal law controls. The IRS regulations give the custodial parent the right to claim the exemption.

What if the non-custodial parent takes the child on taxes when they should not? The simplest means of dealing with this problem is with the custodial parent filing their taxes and letting the Internal Revenue Service deal with the problem. In other words, if the non-custodial parent files before you do and wrongly claims the exemption, just report it to the IRS. This does not mean that there not other remedies (such as contempt or requesting the court to take away the right to the exemption), but only that I think the IRS solution is more efficient.

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