TAX TALK

The Baltimore Sun

Editor's note: Every Sunday through the end of tax season, The Sun will run an edited transcript of Baltimoresun.com's weekly tax advice column featuring experts from the Sparks accounting firm SC&H; Group who will answer reader questions.

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Can I claim my mother as a dependent if I provide 50 percent or more of her care?

- Sandra, Boone, N.C.

There are four tests that must be met in order to be classified as a qualifying relative that would entitle you to claim your mother as your dependent. The four tests are: relationship, gross income, support and dependency.

Relationship: The individual must fall within one of the following relationships:

a) a child

b) brother, sister, stepbrother or stepsister

c) father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, grandmother or grandfather

d) son or daughter-in-law, sister or brother-in-law, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles

e) an individual that for the tax year has the same principal residence as you and is a member of your household

Gross income: The individual must have less than $3,400 of gross income for the 2007 tax year ($3,500 for 2008). It is important to note that any income excluded from the claimed dependent's gross income (exempt interest, disability, certain Social Security benefits) is disregarded.

Support: Over half of the dependent's total support must have been furnished by you.

Dependency: The individual must not be the qualifying child of another taxpayer for the tax year.

In addition to these tests, an individual cannot be claimed as a dependent if she files a joint return with her spouse.

Since we are talking about your mother, you would qualify for the both the first and the last tests.

Therefore, if your mother had less than $3,400 of gross income for 2007 and you provided more than half of her total support, you could claim her as your dependent as long as she is not filing a joint return with her spouse.

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