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To get the ball rolling while members of the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants prepare answers to reader questions, here is a frequently asked question. Answer provided by MACPA members.

Q. During the last six months, my mother has lived with my husband and me; we have paid for her food, clothing and other expenses. Can we claim her as a dependent on our return?

A. You may, if you meet these four criteria:

* You provide over 50 percent of your mother's support for the year.

* Your mother's gross income was less than $2,350.

* Your mother does not file a joint return.

* Your mother is a U.S. citizen or a resident of Canada or Mexico.

However, be aware that dependency exemptions are phased out for high-income taxpayers. For joint-filers, the phase-out begins when your adjusted gross income reaches $162,700. For single filers, it's $108,450; for heads-of-household, $135,600; and for those married and filing separately, it's $81,350.

The above advice is for general purposes only. Specific situations may vary.

A joint service from The Baltimore Sun and the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants can help you with your state and federal tax queries. Association members, all CPAs, will answer questions from readers until April 15.

Readers may submit questions by calling Sundial or writing or sending a fax to the Business News Department. Selected questions will be answered in The Sun and The Evening Sun. Callers are encouraged, but not required, to leave their names and phone numbers should questions need to be clarified. Questions will not be answered by phone. Names and numbers will not be published.

To ask a tax question on Sundial, call The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County call 268-7736, in Harford County 836-5028, and in Carroll County 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, enter 6120 after you hear the greeting.

Written queries may be sent to TAX QUESTIONS, The Baltimore Sun, Business News Department, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Fax questions to the The Sun's Business News Department at (410) 783-2517.

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