How to Determine If Social Security Number Has Been Claimed As Dependent

By Teo Spengler - Updated June 05, 2017
Young person accessing electronic tax return

Find out if you have been claimed as a dependent on someone's tax return by filing an electronic return claiming a personal exemption. The IRS will reject your return if someone claimed you as a dependent.

What is a Dependent?

A dependent is someone, other than a taxpayer and his spouse, who meets the IRS qualifications to be declared a dependent for tax exemption purposes. Essentially, dependents are children or relatives who meet the qualifying tests. Each dependency exemption reduces the taxable income of the taxpayer by thousands of dollars.

Qualifying Child as Dependent

To determine if anyone can legally claim you as a dependent, look at the qualifications for a dependent child exemption. In order for your parents to claim you as a dependent, they and you must meet these standards:

  • You must be their son, daughter, stepchild, sibling, stepchild or a descendant of any of them;
  • You must be under 19 if out of school, 24 if in school or any age if disabled;
  • You must have lived with your parents half of the year or have been away at school, been out of the house because of illness, been traveling on business, gone on a lengthy vacation or been living away for military service;
  • You must not have provided more than half of your own support for the prior year;
  • You must not have filed a joint return, or, if you did, not have claimed a marital deduction.

If these qualifications are met, your parents or older siblings may have the right to claim you as a dependent. If not, they cannot claim you as a dependent. The easiest way to find out if they claimed you is to ask them.

How to Find Out if Someone Claimed Me on Their Taxes?

If you are under 24 years old and think your parents may have claimed you as a dependent, the best strategy is to ask them. If you disagree about the claim, you can hash it out with them.

Otherwise, you'll have to let the IRS sort it out. The easiest way to do this is to attempt to file an electronic return taking your own personal exemption. If nobody has claimed you as a dependent, your return should go through. If someone has claimed you as a dependent, you will not be allowed to file the return. It will be returned to you.

What to do if someone has claimed you as a dependent and you are sure they did not have the right to do so? Go ahead and file a paper return taking a personal exemption. The IRS will notice and start an investigation. But be careful – whomever is wrong will owe the IRS penalties and interest.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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