How Many Kids Can You Claim on Taxes?

Posted by on January 20, 2016
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How Many Kids Can You Claim on Taxes?

Kids are great! But they can be taxing…in more ways than one.

Growing up, my parents would always give me an increase on my allowance around April. They would say it was to teach me how to budget my money. Not to sell out my parents or anything but now I know that they were able to give me a little extra once a year because they were getting more back from the IRS after filing and claiming me as a dependent.

Let’s just say, those little bonuses stopped once I began filing my own taxes.

Is there a limit to how many dependents I can claim on my tax return?

No, there is no maximum amount of dependents you’re allowed to claim on your tax return. You can claim all dependents who are qualified child dependents according to IRS rules. Consider it a token of appreciation for supporting the ever-increasing costs of diapers, astronomical college tuition fees and for simply putting food on the table each night.

What qualifies a child as my dependent?

You may see this question to have a simple answer if you are married parents filing a joint return. However, for single parents, married parents who file separately or other relatives, the answer is not as clear.

A qualifying child dependent has slightly different requirements than a qualifying relative dependent does. In order to be considered a qualifying child dependent, they must meet all of the following requirements:

  • The child must be a U.S. citizen, national, resident or a resident of Mexico or Canada.
  • The child cannot be claimed by someone else or themselves if they are also taking the personal exemption.
  • If the child is filing a tax return, they cannot be claiming a dependent.
  • The child cannot be filing a joint tax return.
  • The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, brother, sister, eligible foster child, half sibling, stepsibling, or adopted child. He/she can also qualify if they are an offspring of any of the above.
  • The child must have lived with you for more than half of the year.
  • The child must be under 19 years old. If the child is a full-time student, they must be under 24 years old. There is no age limit if the child is totally and permanently disabled.
  • You must have provided more than half of the child’s annual financial support.

How much is each dependent child worth on my tax return?

Each child claimed as a dependent reduces your taxable income by $4,000. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that $4,000 will be added to your refund or directly deducted from your tax bill. It means that the income amount that you are being taxed on is reduced which ultimately reduces your tax bill (or increases your refund amount).

Although claiming a dependent or two on your tax return opens the door to qualifying for the Child Tax Credit, it does not guarantee it.

Can I claim the Child Tax Credit?

Claiming a dependent on your tax return reduces your taxable income while claiming the child tax credit reduces your tax due amount directly. A tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar and each child is worth up to $1,000. To read more about qualifying for the credit, check out our article all about it HERE!

When you create an account with Rapidtax, our application will automatically let you know if you qualify for the Child Tax Credit after entering in your income and dependent information.

Happy filing!

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76 Responses to “How Many Kids Can You Claim on Taxes?”

  1. Karlita says:

    What about parents, grandparents. Can they be claimed as dependents?

  2. Ki says:

    My son is leaving this yr in Aug to go stay with his dad for the school year. Who claims him me or the dad?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Ki,

      Typically, the custodial parent – the one the child spends more than half the year with – claims the dependent child. But the other (noncustodial) parent may claim the dependent if he or she provided half of the child’s support.

      • John says:

        Make sure there is nothing in your Divorce papers as to who can claim the child. If not you’ll be hashing it out in court because the IRS doesn’t care who said what they simply want your money. Believe me I know..

  3. candace says:

    I claim my two children on my taxes for the past two years I will be adding three children this year does that mean I will get up to 3 child tax credits?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Candace,

      That is correct. If you have children who qualify you to claim the credit, you can get up to $1,000 per child on your tax return.

      • Monica says:

        What if I’m claiming 4 kids? I had three but adopted now I have 4. Will I get credit for the 4th child as well?

        • Hi Monica,

          You can claim the credit for the amount of dependents that qualify. However, the child tax credit is nonrefundable, meaning if your credit amount is higher than your tax liability, your tax bill is just reduced to zero. Any remaining unused credit is lost. The only exception to this is claiming the Additional Child Tax Credit. This one is refundable. The formula for the amount you are actually refunded is a bit more complicated than the initial Child Tax Credit’s. It is based on multiple factors and may not total out to be as much as the Child Tax Credit. RapidTax will calculate this amount for you upon entering your tax information within the application and figure out if you qualify for one or both of the credits.

  4. Karina Monterroza says:

    I have five kids and my husband is the only one that works.we were told that he’s only allowed to claim 3

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Karina,

      It’s difficult to say if your source is incorrect or not. Whether or not you can claim certain dependents on your tax return depends on if the IRS guidelines are met by your husband. The requirements of the child are as follows:

      – The child must be a U.S. citizen, national, resident or a resident of Mexico or Canada.
      – The child cannot be claimed by someone else or themselves if they are also taking the personal exemption.
      – If the child is filing a tax return, they cannot be claiming a dependent.
      – The child cannot be filing a joint tax return.
      – The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, brother, sister, eligible foster child, half sibling, stepsibling, or adopted child. He/she can also qualify if they are an offspring of any of the above.
      – The child must have lived with you for more than half of the year.
      – The child must be under 19 years old. If the child is a full-time student, they must be under 24 years old. There is no age limit if the child is totally and permanently disabled.
      – You must have provided more than half of the child’s annual financial support.

      • Angela says:

        My ? Is I have 5 kids but I always claim 3 of them because I been told not to claim my other 2 kids because I can’t get any refund for them but I’m the head household they live with me and I support them. Now I’m wondering if I can get a refund for my other 2 kids claim all 5! There all under 18 anda change in my refund would really help since I’m a single mom!

        • No, there is no maximum amount of dependents you’re allowed to claim on your tax return. You can claim all dependents who are qualified child dependents according to IRS rules. I advise you report all your qualifying dependents on your return and you will be able determine if you are granted a higher refund.

  5. rachel says:

    Have a question we have 6 kids could my husband and I claim all of them and will we get the full amount on them as a child depend

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Rachel,

      You are able to claim as many dependents as are eligible. Keep in mind that the IRS does have some guidelines that need to be met (ie: age limit, etc…). As long as those are met, claiming 6 dependent children is not an issue.

  6. Melissa Baker says:

    I have 4 kids and they all stay with me. Will I be able to claim all 4 of my kids

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Although all four children are living with you, there are other requirements that need to be met that prove them eligible to be claimed as your dependents. The guidelines are listed for you in the article above, under the section, “What qualifies a child as my dependent?“. As long as these are met, the IRS will consider you eligible to claim them as your dependents.

  7. Geraldine says:

    Hi,I just began working at a new job after 4 months being unemployed, I have a 7year old daughter and my son was just born this year in July. When Im filling the W-4, nobody can claim me, and Im claiming my 2 kids from 2 different parents, the father of my daughter died. So I am claiming my self as head of household, since Im the one paying. So, adding everything the total personal allowances is 9 since also I am adding the child tax credit. Does that number means that I will have to pay at the end a lot? Please let me know
    Thanks

    • Hi Geraldine,

      Allowances on your W-4 determine when you will be paying the tax you are responsible for paying. The total amount does not change. That being said, here’s how they work. The more allowances you claim on your W-4, the less is withheld from your income throughout the year. The less allowances you claim on your W-4, the more is withheld from your income throughout the year. If too little is withheld, then you will end up owing the IRS after filing your tax return for the year. If too much is withheld, then you will be issued a tax refund from the IRS to cover the difference that you payed.

      Now that you know how it works, you can see how it affects your tax return. Ideally, you want your W-4 form to reflect how you plan to complete your tax return for that year. For example, if you plan to claim the Child Tax Credit on your return, then you may want to claim an additional allowance so that you are receiving more take home pay throughout the year. Based on the W-4 Personal Allowance guidelines, you are spot on with claiming 9 allowances. With that in mind, know that you can adjust your W-4 if you would prefer to have more withheld throughout the year and more of a refund after filing.

      • Samone says:

        I have two kids and im wondering if i claim them as dependents during the year will i get a refund when i file?

        • Tax Advisor says:

          Every individual’s situation is different, various factors will be your filing status, the amount of income that you earn, your deductions, the type of credits that you will be claiming. You won’t know for sure until you begin filling out your information for your tax filing for the year.

  8. Ashley says:

    I have 4 kids I take care of all 4. I was told I can only claim 3 for taxes. They are all u.s born one is 3 one is 4 and other two are a year old. So why can I only claim 3? Thanks

    • Hi Ashley,

      The information you were given is incorrect. You can claim more than three qualifying dependents on your tax return.

      • moises says:

        if this is true than why last year when I did my taxes online and I added my 4 child I was given any extra credit or income tax didn’t increase and would’ve gotten the same amount back as I did with 3 or 4 kids, it didn’t matter I added another child.

  9. Olivia G says:

    i have 4 kids. Why was i told even if you claim more than 3 children , tax credit is only allowed to be given for up to three children, and any dependent after the three is just used to bring my number closer to zero to try to get max payout. what number is being referred to? is this correct.?

    • Hi Olivia,

      There is no ‘official’ limit to how many children you can claim the Child Tax Credit for. However, additional dependents can trigger the alternative minimum tax to come into play. This tax can exactly offset the additional child tax credit for families with more dependents. Also keep in mind that if the amount of your Child Tax Credit exceeds the amount of income tax you owe, you would need to qualify to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit. You should ask your tax preparer about this if you are unfamiliar. If you are preparing your tax return with us at RapidTax.com, then you can contact our customer support team for further details and to see if you qualify.

  10. Andre L High says:

    I have custody of my 4 kids would i get the same amount as the first 2

    • Hi Andre,

      This depends on the tax benefits that you qualify for based on your tax situation. There is a difference between what you’ll get for claiming a dependent and what you’ll get for claiming the Child Tax Credit. Claiming a dependent reduces your taxable income. It does NOT directly reduce your tax due or increase your refund. The Child Tax Credit does reduce your tax due dollar for dollar IF you qualify. I don’t want to give you the incorrect guidance solely based on your initial comment. I would first need to know which you are asking about. You can check out our other article about claiming the Child Tax Credit HERE.

  11. Sabrina McQueen says:

    We have 5 kids and in may my daughters bf mom dropped her son off with us. She hasn’t sent no support for him at all me and my husband support him we have for 7 months. We have told her were going to claim him can we?

  12. Richard says:

    Okay, let’s say a single parent works part-time…if that parent made $5,000 and has 5 kids to claim, how does that work with the Child Tax Credit? Can the parent still claim all 5 kids and will she be able to get $1,000 for each?

    • Hi Richard,

      The Child Tax Credit is nonrefundable, meaning that you can claim the credit for the amount that does not exceed your total tax due The credit will only reduce your tax due amount to $0.00. Once that is reached, the remainder cannot be claimed as a refund. That being said, the Additional Child Tax Credit can be claimed in addition to the original if you qualify. This one is refundable as long as your earned income was at least $3,000 for the year. The criteria for qualifying for the Additional credit uses Schedule 8812 and is a bit more strict. If you create an account with RapidTax, we will determine whether or not you qualify for one or both of these credits based on your criteria.

  13. Heather says:

    Good Evening,

    Question about the W4 forms. Wanted to know if both working couples should be claiming the same number of allowance with their employers W4. We have 3 children which gives us 5 total allowance. But should we both put 5 on our W4 or should we split up the number to 3 and 2, or should the highest pay couple take all 5 and the lowest pay claim 0 allowance. Its getting much more complicated to understand this form. Yet we don’t want to have to owe any taxes if our Allowance are completed wrong. Currently we have 5 on my allowance and 5 on my spouse’s allowance. Thank you!

    • Hi Heather,

      Joint filers should split the total amount of allowances between them. Typically, the higher earning spouse will claim the majority of allowances. This tends to be more financially beneficial. However, if you are earning about the same amount of income, it is common to split the allowances evenly. I don’t suggest that you each claim five allowances. This will most likely result in you owing tax to the IRS if too little is withheld from your paychecks throughout the year.

  14. Gionna says:

    i am single full time working mother , with free child care ( thankfully ) . How should i fill out my w-4 to get the most money back on tax returns

    • Hi Gionna,

      In order to get the highest tax refund possible, you would claim zero allowances on your W-4 form. Keep in mind that although this gets you the maximum refund after filing, it will also decrease your take-home pay throughout the year. Claiming zero allowances allows your employer to withhold the maximum amount of income allowed. When taxpayers do this, more than necessary will typically be withheld, causing the IRS to issue them a refund of the difference. It is important to realize that the amount of actual tax you are paying does not change based on your W-4 form. Your W-4 only determined when you will be paying that tax; either throughout the year by withheld income or in one bulk amount after filing.

  15. Vanessa Clara Gonzales says:

    Hi! I have 4 kids and I’m only claim 3 because I live with my mom and she has been claiming my oldest daughter that is 11 for the past 6 years well when my mom filed her taxes this they told her she can’t use my daughter any more because she’s not her legal guardian but we live with her! Is there a new law stating she can’t claim her grandchildren and can she still claim my daughter?

    • Hi Vanessa,

      The law has remained pretty consistent since last year. You may want to review all of the rules instated by the IRS about claiming a child dependent. Also keep in mind that if your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) equals more than your mother’s, then she will not be able to claim your child on her taxes.

  16. Iris says:

    Can I claim my boyfriend on my tax return? He didnt work all year. We live together and have three children. Would I also get a tax credit for him?

    • Hi Iris,

      You can claim your boyfriend as a dependent IF he meets all of the qualifications set forth by the IRS for a qualifying relative.

      He must meet all of the following requirements in order to be considered your Qualifying Relative:

      1. Not a Qualifying Child: The individual cannot be your Qualifying Child and cannot be someone else’s Qualifying Child. They are a Qualifying Child if they meet all the requirements, whether or not they are claimed as a dependent.

      2. Relationship: The person must either have lived with you for the entire year as a member of the household (a person who is not actually related to you may meet the requirements in this way), or be related to you in one of the following ways: your child, stepchild, grandchild or other descendant of one of your children (or stepchildren or foster children), son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, parent, stepfather, stepmother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandparent, and, if related by blood, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew. Remember that a child whom you legally adopted is always considered to be your child. Also note that, for the purposes of this requirement, divorce or death does not change any relationship which was established by marriage (e.g. son-in-law, daughter-in-law, etc.)

      3. Gross Income: The person must have made less than $4,000 in gross income during 2016.

      4. Support: You must have provided more than half of the individual’s total support during the year.

  17. Cain says:

    Thank you for all the information. However, I am still thoroughly confused… so many people say conflicting things and it’s hard to know who to believe. Any way, here’s my situation. I work full time and my wife stay at home with our 4 kids. I was told to claim 10 on my w4’s, however, after my tax guy reviewed my w2, he suggested claiming 20. I don’t understand his reasoning and after conducting my own research, I can’t find anything to support his suggestion. I would appreciate any input.

    • Hi Cain,

      Claiming 20 allowances would most likely have no income at all withheld to cover taxes owed to the IRS. Your tax preparer was probably suggesting this so that you would have the maximum amount of take-home pay throughout the year. This also means that you would owe the IRS a pretty large tax due amount after filing for the year. The amount of tax you owe for the year remains consistent. The W-4 only determines when you will pay. The more allowances you claim, the less is withheld from your paychecks throughout the year. If too little is withheld, you will have a tax bill after filing. The less allowances you claim, the more is withheld from your paychecks throughout the year. If too much is withheld, you will be issued a refund from the IRS. Claiming 10 allowances is more reasonable than 20 but is still likely to result in a tax due. I’d suggest referring to the Personal Allowances Worksheet on the first page of the W-4 form.

  18. Cassie says:

    Hi!, I have a question. Might be long winded and a little confusing, so apologies in advance!. My situation is that my husband and I have 3 children of our own. We are in the process of adopting 3 additional children that were placed with us through child protective services. I know we won’t qualify this year as we have already filed our taxes and the adoption is not yet complete, however- I have been told of a tax credit for adoption if you adopt a special needs child through an agency such as CPS.

    I just heard of this a few days ago, and I have tried to do some research, but the few things I found on the topic were very vague, and frankly, quite confusing. All 3 of the children we are adopting are special needs and were placed with us by Child welfare services, so from what i gather we qualify based on those terms, but I do not know any other conditions and am feeling quite confused about the entire situation.

    The children we are adopting have lived with us for over a year now, so we intended to claim them along with our biological children on this years return. However, when we filed our taxes this year, we asked about claiming the 3 additional children, and were told that since we were already claiming our own 3 children and receiving the child tax credit, it would not increase our refund, so we left them off.

    Is that accurate? And have you ever heard of this adoption credit? If so, how does it work?

    Thanks!!.

    • Hi Cassie,

      There is an Adoption tax credit and exclusion that you may qualify for. It applies to those children that are under the age of 18 OR physically or mentally incapable of self-care (regardless of age). As stated by the IRS,

      Tax benefits for adoption include both a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses paid to adopt an eligible child and an exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance. The credit is nonrefundable, which means it’s limited to your tax liability for the year. However, any credit in excess of your tax liability may be carried forward for up to five years. The maximum amount (dollar limit) for 2016 is $13,460 per child.

  19. David Marinelli says:

    I have six kids and made I little offer 57k last year. And I able to receive a tax break for all six kids or does it stop at 3 kids?

  20. Renee says:

    I have 4 kids and myself can I carry all four of them

    • Hi Renee,

      Are you asking if you are able to claim all of your children as qualifying dependents? You can claim all four if you meet the qualifications instated by the IRS:

      1. The child must be a U.S. citizen, national, resident or a resident of Mexico or Canada.
      2. The child cannot be claimed by someone else or themselves if they are also taking the personal exemption.
      3. If the child is filing a tax return, they cannot be claiming a dependent.
      4. The child cannot be filing a joint tax return.
      5. The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, brother, sister, eligible foster child, half sibling, step-sibling, or adopted child. He/she can also qualify if they are an offspring of any of the above.
      6. The child must have lived with you for more than half of the year.
      7. The child must be under 19 years old. If the child is a full-time student, they must be under 24 years old. There is no age limit if the child is totally and permanently disabled.
      8. You must have provided more than half of the child’s annual financial support.

      Keep in mind that the IRS has a different set of requirements when it comes to claiming the Child Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit.

  21. Stephanie says:

    I’m a single mother of three kids. How should I file my W4 form, to get the most money on my Tax returns. Please help. Thank you

    • Hi Stephanie,

      It’s important to understand how allowances work before filling out your W-4 form. The more you claim on your W-4, the less is withheld from your paychecks throughout the year for taxes owed. The less allowances you claim, the more is withheld from your paychecks. If too little is withheld, you will owe the IRS after filing. If too much is withheld, the IRS will issue you a tax refund. Regardless of the amount of allowances you claim, the amount of tax you are responsible for remains the same until you apply eligible credits and deductions when filing your actual tax return. In order to get the highest refund possible, you would claim zero allowances. However, this also means that a high amount will be withheld from your paychecks, giving you less take-home-pay throughout the year.

  22. jessica says:

    I don’t get this, my friend makes about 80 cents more than means has 2 kids, does her taxes and gets 9,200 back. I have 3 kids and get back 6,800. How????

    • Although, your income is similar to your friend’s income, your employer may not be withholding enough taxes from your pay each month. This will result in you receiving a lower refund at the end of the tax year. You can reach out to your employer to revise your W-4 form since you may have indicated too may allowances.

  23. andre E says:

    Savvy writing – I am thankful for the information . Does someone know if my assistant might obtain a sample IRS 4506 example to edit ?

  24. Courtney says:

    This year is my ex-husbands year to claim our daughter (we alternate years its in our divorce decree) but he moved to Florida in May of 2016 and left our daughter here with me. He is also almost 4K behind in back support. Can I claim her since hes not head of household since she basically lives with me all the time now and he is behind so much in support?

    • You can claim the EITC even though it is his year to claim the dependent. You can also file as Head of Household and claim dependent care credits if applicable. However, you may not be able to claim the child tax credit since this is associated with dependency.

  25. cindy says:

    Can my husband claim one child and i claim another one on separate forms?

    • Yes, you can choose which dependents you both want to claim, however you cannot claim the same dependent. There are special circumstances that you can also indicate which each dependent that could allow both of you to claim them for certain credits as well. Our website is designed to navigate you through these options, and if you ever need any further assistance, you can feel free to contact our customer support.

  26. Laney says:

    I’m a sigle mom and head of household I have 3 children, If I drop two can i claim all 3 at the end of the yr?
    I am the only one taking care of them and my tax records have always remained the same with the same dependents.
    Will I owe or get into trouble?

  27. sam says:

    hi i am a student and have three kids and a spouse but by kids and spouse dont have SSN. I am applying for their social and need to submit extension for tax credits. i dont know how to answer these questions on extension for
    4: Estimate of total tax liability for 2016 . . $
    5 Total 2016 payments . . . . . .
    6 Balance due. Subtract line 5 from line 4
    (see instructions) . . . . . . .
    7 Amount you’re paying

    • You must provide an “estimate of your total tax liability for 2016”. If you think you will owe the IRS in 2016, you need to provide an estimate of this amount. Your “total 2016 payments” is the total amount of estimated payments you may have paid the IRS in 2016. The “Balance due” is the difference of your estimated total tax and total payments. “Amount you are paying” is any payment that you will be including with your Application for Extension form 4868.

  28. Lyric says:

    My wife and I recently married this year. She makes about 20k less than I do and We have 3 kids together previously we would switch every two years claiming the kids BUT this year we are married and I was wondering if we would get more back filing married but filing separate and I claim 1 and she claim the other two or if we file married filing jointly and she claim all. Is it possible to file married filing jointly and I claim one and she claim the other two?

    • Hello Lyric,

      You can make an account with our website and it will calculate the tax refund or liability when you choose different filing status.’ Start for free. You may opt to use our tax calculator to also get an estimated refund or tax liability. The Married filing Jointly status gives you both a higher standard deduction than Married filing Separately, however, you will have shared tax responsibilities.

      If you choose to file Married filing Separately, only then will you and your wife choose to claim your three children separately. Keep in mind that your tax rate is higher and you may not be able to claim certain credits based off of one income compared to two.

  29. Steven Brewer says:

    Ok I have one kid and i am head of house hold, and i have daycare, but i have two jobs 1. making 46000 the other making about 15000 how should i file please help me if you can

  30. Matt says:

    I have 3 children and another one on the way but she won’t be born till January, would I be able to claim her or what till next year?

    • You will not be able to claim a child that has yet to be born. There is also a minimum amount of months that your child must live with you for the year to be considered a qualified dependent. You will need to wait until next year, and as a guideline, you can view the IRS’s publication on who they consider as a qualified dependent.

  31. Brittnie says:

    Hi im letting my boyfriend of 2yrs claim me and my 2yr old son on his taxes he already has 3 kids of his own amd provides everything for all of us. Im wanting to know if he would get more on his taxe return by claiming us or if it would just b a deduction? I was told that after claiming 3 kids anyother children you claim will just be a deduction is this true? Or will he recieve more on the return?

    • Hello Brittnie,

      Claiming you and your child could definitely benefit your boyfriend. However, whether he would receive a higher refund or just a deduction is dependent on many factors specific to his tax return. He could try using our site for free to determine these questions and call our free customer lines to better answer questions with his information entered. Create an Account Today!

  32. Lisa says:

    Hi, I’ve been helping my friend raise her two of her kids for this past year and she told me that since I helped her that I would be able to claim them both. They weren’t living with me, but most of my time and money were spent on the two children, so Is this a safe thing to do? Is it okay if I claim both? We just want to make sure we don’t get in trouble with the IRS.

    • When claiming a non-relative on your tax return as dependents, one requirement is that they live with you for the full year. Provided through their website is a list of questions that you can go through for further explanation on this situation.

  33. Christina says:

    I make around 5,000 a year babysitting I have 3 year old can i do Tex and get something back or do I not make enough to do this

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