You can claim a boyfriend or girlfriend as a dependent on your federal income taxes if that person meets the Internal Revenue Service's definition of a "qualifying relative."

Don't get tripped up by the word "relative" here—according to the IRS, it can include an unrelated person who passes the four following tests concerning:

  1. Residency
  2. Income
  3. Support
  4. Status

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Is your partner an official resident?

Your partner must be a member of your household, meaning that they lived with you for the entire calendar year.

The law makes exceptions for temporary absences, such as vacations and medical treatment, but your home must have been that person's official residence for the full year.

However, if your living situation violates local law, you cannot claim that individual as a dependent. In some states, "cohabitation" by unmarried people is against the law.

How much does your partner earn?

If your partner has gross income above a certain amount, you cannot claim that person as a dependent.

  • Gross income is any income from any source that's subject to tax, whether it's wages, interest on a bank account or other types of taxable income.
  • The limit for gross income limit varies from year to year.
  • For the 2019 tax year, the income limit is $4,200.

Also, you cannot generally claim a married person as a dependent if they file a joint return with their spouse.

How much money do you spend on your partner?

You must have paid more than half of your partner’s living expenses during the calendar year for which you want to claim that person as a dependent.

When calculating the total amount of support, you must include money received from:

  1. You and other people
  2. The individual’s own funds

In other words, if your partner took money from a savings account to pay for food, housing or other living expenses, and the total amount withdrawn is more than half of the person's living expenses, you cannot claim that individual as a dependent.

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Are you the only person claiming your partner as a dependent?

If your partner is already being claimed as a dependent by another person, you can't also claim them as a dependent. Only one person (or tax return, in the case of married couples filing jointly) may claim a specific tax dependent in any given tax year. Also, you cannot generally claim a married person as a dependent if they file a joint return with their spouse.

Online help

The IRS website offers an online "assistant" that can help you determine whether your boyfriend or girlfriend qualifies as a dependent.

Of course, if you prepare your taxes with TurboTax, we'll ask simple questions about your living situation, and tell you exactly who can and cannot be claimed as your dependent.