Claiming Parents as Dependents If They Receive Social Security Benefits

Posted by on December 19, 2016
Last modified:
Claiming your parents as dependents is still possible if they are receiving social security benefits.

It’s been said that life comes full circle. Well, so do taxes.

It’s difficult to watch your parents grow old. The ones who supported you while growing up are now the ones you’re taking care of. You may be curious if you can claim your parents as dependents on your tax return like they once did for you.

The answer lies in the following five tests set up by the IRS:

#1. They must be related to you.

#2. They must be a citizen or resident of the United States, Canada, or Mexico.

#3. They must not be filing a joint tax return.

#4. They must have an annual gross income of less than $4,000.

#5. You must provide more than 50% of their financial support for the year.

With these qualifications in mind, let’s take a look at some special circumstances that might apply to you and your parents.

Can I claim my parent as a dependent if…

…they receive Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Yes. Your parent is receiving benefits for the time and effort they put in while on the workforce. This amount is not included in their gross income amount for the year. That means that Rule #4 above is still met even if their benefits come to more than $4,000 annually.

EXCEPTION: If your parent decides to go back to work after retiring, then that income could affect Rule #4 and Rule #5 above. Here’s how. If their income amount from the new job comes out to be more than $4,000 for the year, then you can not claim them as a dependent on your taxes. In turn, if they are providing more than 50% of their own support with the new job, then you cannot claim them as a dependent either.

…they receive Social Security Disability?

Yes. Millions of Americans each year enter into the Social Security Disability program because they are no longer able to work due to a medical condition. Disability is available to those whose condition is expected to last longer than 12 consecutive months (or already has). One can receive this benefit until they are either no longer disabled or have reached full retirement age. 

EXCEPTION: You can claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return without their benefit being affected. However, Social Security benefits can limit any wage income they receive while on disability (ie: from another job they are employed with).

…they receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Yes. This is a program available to those who have a disability which makes them unable to work but don’t qualify for regular disability benefits. This also works a bit differently than the disability program mentioned above. While you can claim your parent on your return if they receive SSI, your 50% support may exceed their income requirement to qualify them for the SSI program in the first place. Why is that? It is a means-tested disability program.

…they have a job?

Maybe. This situation is becoming more and more common. Whether your parent is bored at home, needs the extra cash, or simply enjoys the workforce, they may have a new job. It’s important for them to realize that the income they are earning is taxable and now included in their gross income amount. When claiming your recently-employed parent as a dependent, you’ll need to keep in mind Rule #4 and #5 above. If their new job is earning them more than the $4,000 annual threshold, then you can no longer claim them as a dependent. If this also means that you are no longer providing 50% of their support, then claiming them is not an option for you. That being said, if you still pass the tests with flying colors, then enjoy your tax deduction!

Taxes can be confusing. So can Social Security benefits.

Combining the two can lead to hundreds of questions and one major headache. When the ultimate goal is to help out a parent who’s always cared for you, it’s tough to focus on money. However, if you fit the qualifications, then you’re entitled to a tax deduction. So let’s get down to filing that tax return. With RapidTax, our customer support team is ready to help you prepare those taxes; deduction or not.

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This entry was posted on at 6:11 pm and is filed under Tax and Life Changes | Blog, Tax Deductions and Credits | Blog.

32 Responses to “Claiming Parents as Dependents If They Receive Social Security Benefits”

  1. Teresa says:

    My parents file joint. Both are on social security. Me and my daughter live with them. I work and help pay for groceries utilities rent and other misc things. I also split daycare expenses with my ex. Questions can we (my parents)both claim my daughter? I also have a son but my ex claims him in our agreement. My son also lives with me half the year as well. I read that the grandparents can claim them as hoh and I still can claim them as well. But I know they file joint. Not sure if they have to? Any advice.

  2. Kevin von Gersdorff says:

    I understand that the Social Security Benefits don’t count as income. My step-father also receives a retirement benefit from my deceased mom’s former employment. Can this be exempt also? Thanks.

  3. Ramona Janacone says:

    My father died November 26,2016 and lived alone,unmarried, and total social security disability of 9,100.00.. Can i claim him on my taxes. I am his daughter, only next of kin.

    • Hi Ramona,

      I am sorry for your great loss last year.

      Based on the information you have provided, it seems as though you would be able to claim your father on your taxes IF you meet the other qualifications listed in the article above. Social Security benefits do not typically count toward the consideration of gross income for the year.

  4. Cindy c says:

    My parents both moved in to my home a few years ago. They only collect social security, they have no other income. I provide all housing, utilities and food for them. They’re only expense is medicine and medical insurance costs. I provide more than 1/2 of their support. My question is, my father passed away on 1/21/16 so he really only resided with me for 21 days. Do I still claim him as a dependent on my 2016 taxes?

    • Hi Cindy,

      I am so sorry for your loss.

      As long as you met the requirements that the IRS has instated for claiming a qualifying relative, then you can claim your parent for the year on your tax return. This is true, regardless of the short 21-day time frame since there is no such thing as claiming a dependent for only a portion of the year.

      We have another blog article specifically relaying how you should file a taxpayer’s final tax return if you’d like to take a look HERE.

  5. Mackey says:

    I live with my mom and younger brother. My mom receives ssi, welfare (food stamp), and about 25$ of child support for my brother. I help pay for his clothe, uniform, hair cuts , he’s in private school so i also pay for his school. Can i claim him as a dependent? Or will that affect my mother?

  6. Theresa says:

    I receive survivors benefits (disability)., I live with my son. Can he claim me on his taxes?

    • Hi Theresa,

      Survivor benefits do not contribute to the annual gross income amount limitation. Therefore, if you meet all of the other qualifications (listed above) set forth by the IRS, then your son can claim you as a dependent, regardless of your benefit amount.

  7. Robin B says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I moved in with my Mom the end of April 2016 after she lost her job and wasn’t able, financially, to care for herself. I’ve paid all of the household expenses since then. Mom has received $1200/Mo SS, and also received a $5000 (before taxes) 401K payout.
    Does the 401K payout negate the possibility of my claiming her as a dependent?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Robin,

      The IRS has strict guidelines to follow when claiming a dependent. In order to claim a dependent relative, their annual gross income must be less than $4,000. While Social Security benefits do not count in that income amount, 401K and IRA distributions do.

  8. Anamika says:

    My parents just got PR card and coming in April to stay with us for 5 month then go back and come again next year…do they have to file tax evey year too..?

    Thank you.

  9. Lisa says:

    My daughter and granddaughter live with me in my home I am on SSD and get 1200.00 a month will she be able to claim me as a dependent on her taxes with the home mortgage in my name

    • In order to qualify as your daughter’s dependent she must have provided at least 50% of your financial support. Further if you have earned income more than the personal exemption for the tax year in question ($4050 for 2016), she will not be able to claim you as a dependent on her return.

  10. julian siganoff says:

    My mother gets a social security check and food stamps.She lives in goverment assisted housing which is based on her s.s..If i claim her will this effect her in any way.

    • There may be consequences to claiming your mother who is receiving government assistance as a dependent on your return. For her to qualify as your dependent, you must be able to show that you provided at least 50% financial support for your mother for the year. If her government assistance exceed your support, you may be penalized for claiming her as a dependent.

  11. julie says:

    My question is can my step brother claim me on his taxes as a dependent ? I was diagnosed with type 2 dietbeties and I’m receiving SSI he pays for my meals buy my cloths and pays my rent all I pay for if my out of pocket medication cost so can he claim me ?

    • Many families provide homes for relatives or provide financial support. You can claim your step brother who received SSI on your return once he meets the IRS tests to be your qualifying dependent.
      -He must be a citizen or resident of the United States, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
      -He did not file a joint income tax return with anyone else.
      -You must have provided more than half of his support.
      -His gross income must be less than $4050 for the entire year. (Generally that amount does not include Social Security benefits.)

  12. cress says:

    can an unmarried couple just living together file as married filing joint just under the assumption they live together and have a daughter? this is in California

    • The IRS only allows a couple to file a joint tax return if the state they reside in recognizes the relationship as a legal marriage. Unfortunately CA does not recognize common law marriages.

  13. Dragos says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I own a 2 Family and my parents live in the bottom unit, we live in the top. They are both retired so no income other than ss and I pay for cable, telephone, internet and water. I do not charge rent and also buy groceries and other items they need. I am doing taxes online and was wondering if/how i could file my taxes and if i should claim my parents as dependents on my returns (filing jointly with my wife) or let them file separately on their own? And if i include them, how/where do i enter it on the returns?

    thank you,

  14. Shelly says:

    My mom gets $5,000 reported on a 1099R can I still claim her? I paid more than 51% of her support but she doesn’t live with me. She gets Social security but she is not required to file taxes, as she is below the filing threshold

    • Your mother’s gross income is too high (more than $4050) for her to qualify as your dependent. Even though you support her, the IRS requires applies a Gross income test as well as a support test. The IRS provides you with an Interactive Assistant to determine who you can claim as a dependent on your return.

  15. cynthia Tarbell says:

    My elderly father does not live with me but I provide more than half of his expences can I claim him on my taxes? He gets social security 12000 per year.

    • SSI income is not counted as gross income. If your father only received $12000 of SSI and you provided 50% or more of his support for 2016, you may be able to claim him as a dependent on your return. You can use the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant to determine if you can claim your father based on your tax situation.

  16. Leila de la Rosa says:

    Hi: my mom is on SSI and a part time caregiver for her. Am retired and also receiving social security benefits as well as my only son as my dependent since he is still in school. Can I claim my mother as well as my dependent for tax purposes. She’s also living with me and am filing as head of household. Any advice will be greatly appreciated

    • One of the IRS’s test to determine if you can claim your parent as your dependent on your return is “Your parent must not have gross income of $4,050 (in 2016) or more. Once your parent passes the IRS qualifying tests to be claimed on your return, her social security benefits will not affect you from claiming her since gross income does not include Social Security payments.

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