U.S. tax laws are written so only one tax-payer (or a married couple filing jointly) can claim a dependent on a tax return. If you are divorced, both you and your ex-spouse may be providing support to the children. But, even if the support is significant, only one of you can claim the child exemption. The IRS usually awards this exemption to the custodial parent.

However, there is an exception. If the custodial parent agrees, the exemption can be transferred to the non-custodial parent. This is something that you can use to your advantage.

A custodial parent who claims the child on his or her tax form gets a number of benefits:

  • A personal exemption for the dependent
  • Head of household filing status (if applicable)
  • A child and dependent care tax credit
  • The child tax credit and additional child tax credit
  • Earned income tax credit (if applicable)
  • An exclusion for dependent care benefits
  • Tuition and fees deduction

Even after releasing the claim to a dependent, the custodial parent may still be eligible to claim the following child-related tax benefits: 

  • Head of household filing status
  • A child and dependent care tax credit
  • Earned income credit
  • An exclusion for dependent care benefits

The value of these tax benefits depends on one’s income. If the custodial parent has a significantly lower income than the non-custodial parent, it may be worthwhile for you to trade the right to claim the child as a dependent for more California child support, custody of the pet, or the big screen TV.

Tax benefits can also be shared. If you have multiple children, the exemptions for the children can be split between the parents, allowing each a tax advantage.

What’s best for your family? Our San Francisco child custody attorneys can help you find the best solution for you and your children. To schedule an appointment, contact The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 415-341-1144.

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