Claiming an Unmarried Partner as a Dependent on Your Tax Return

To claim tax benefits for your dependent partner, your partner must pass five tests.

Under specific circumstances, one partner in an unmarried couple can claim a cohabiting partner as a dependent and qualify for a tax break. The IRS defines dependents as either close relatives or unrelated persons who live in the taxpayer's household as the principal place of abode and supported by the taxpayer.

So, if you financially support your partner and meet all other criteria, you might be able to file a tax return as a single person and claim your partner as a dependent.

Conditions to Claim an Unmarried Partner as a Dependent

To be able to do this legally, you must meet the following criteria.

1. Support

The supporting partner must provide at least 50% of the other partner's total support for the year. Support includes food, shelter, clothing, medical and dental care, education, entertainment, and just about any expense you can think of.

2. Citizen or Resident

You generally can't claim a person as a dependent unless that person is a U.S. citizen, a U.S. resident alien, a U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.

3. Income

The supported person's gross income can't exceed a certain amount for the year. (See IRS Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information to find out the current amount.) Nontaxable money, such as gifts, welfare benefits, and nontaxable Social Security benefits, don't count toward gross income.

4. Relationship

Under IRS regulations, a person who lived in your home for the entire year can be considered a dependent as long as the relationship doesn't violate local law. When this rule was written, sodomy, fornication, and cohabitation were illegal in many states. Even though most states have repealed these kinds of laws, a few are still in place. If you live in one of those states, you're technically not allowed to claim the tax break. Though, consider going ahead and claiming your partner as a dependent anyway. Various court decisions have made those laws questionable at best, and the worst that can happen is that the IRS won't allow you to claim your partner as a dependent, and your tax bill will be recomputed.

5. Unmarried Person

If the supported person is married and files a joint tax return with a legal spouse, the supporting partner in this relationship can't claim the supported person as a dependent. There's one exception: If the married couple didn't earn enough to have to file a tax return and did so only to get a refund, the supporting partner can claim the dependent.

Learn More

Review IRS Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information to learn more about dependents and taxes. You can get a copy of this publication by contacting the IRS at 800-829-1040 or going to the IRS website at

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