There are many reasons why you may choose to live with your significant other as an unmarried couple rather than getting married. If marriage is not in your plans, knowing how your relationship status affects your taxes can save you money and trouble when it is time to file.
The IRS does not recognize unmarried partners with regards to taxes. So, while married couples are able to file a joint tax return, unmarried couples are not. However, you may be able to claim your unmarried partner as dependent on your tax return if your living arrangement meets certain criteria.
Assuming your unmarried partner is an adult, there are four essential requirements that must be met to claim them as a dependent on your tax return:
- You must not be eligible to claim your unmarried partner as a qualifying child. No person who is over the age of 23, or over the age of 18 and not attending school full time, can be claimed as a qualifying child unless they are totally and permanently disabled.
- Your unmarried partner must have lived with you for the entire tax year.
- Your unmarried partner’s gross income for the year in question must not exceed $4,000. Gross income is the total of all income that is not tax exempt. This amount can change every year. So, check with the IRS for the current amount.
- You must provide more than 50% of your unmarried partner’s necessary financial support. This includes housing, home repairs, food, and clothing, as well as, educational, medical and travel expenses.
If you meet these requirements, you can prepare your tax return on form 1040 or 1040a and report your unmarried partner’s name, social security number, and relationship to you.
Here are few other things to keep in mind:
- You can only claim an unmarried partner as dependent on your tax return if the fact that you live together does not violate any local or state laws. Some states still outlaw cohabitation, fornication, and sodomy. If you live in one of these states and meet the other 4 criteria, you should still report your unmarried partner as a dependent, but be aware that they IRS may disallow the deduction.
- If your partner is still married to someone else with whom they have filed a joint tax return for the year in question, you cannot claim them as dependent on your tax return for that year. The only way you can do this is if your partner and his or her husband did not have enough income that year to be required to file a tax return and only did so to get a return. This rule applies to both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
- Lastly, in order to claim your unmarried partner as a dependent on your tax return, he or she must be a citizen of the United States, Mexico, or Canada.
Claiming your unmarried partner as dependent on your tax return can provide you with the same tax benefits as claiming a child––one exemption, which can ultimately reduce your tax bill for the year. For information, contact an experienced family attorney or tax professional.