What is a Qualifying Child?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2019
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In the United States, the term qualifying child is often used when discussing taxes. Usually, it is used to indicate that a child is a dependent of a particular taxpayer. Sometimes, however, it is used to describe a person who has reached adulthood but is a full-time student or disabled. Once dependency is established, a person may take certain tax credits and deductions for his qualifying children. This term may be used by taxing agencies in other countries as well.

The term qualifying child is often used when United States taxpayers complete and file their annual income tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service has strict rules regarding who is considered a qualifying child. These rules help determine whether a taxpayer can claim another person as his dependent and take certain tax credits for him. To fit this designation, the person must meet relationship, age, residence, and support criteria.

In determining whether a person is a qualifying child, an adult typically considers his relationship with the person in question. If the person is the taxpayer’s son, daughter, stepchild, sibling, or grandchild, he may meet the criteria. Adopted children and foster children are also considered qualifying children, as long as other conditions are met.


A person's age also has a good deal to do with whether or not he is considered a qualifying child. In the United States, the person must be younger than the age of 19, with a couple of exceptions. If the person is younger than 24 years old and in school full time, he may be considered a qualifying child. On the other hand, a person may meet the criteria at any age if he is permanently disabled. Other countries may have similar age requirements or consider only minors as qualifying children.

Where a person lives is considered in using the qualifying child title as well. In the United States, the person must live with the taxpayer for at least six months out of the year. Other countries may have similar rules or require the child to live with the taxpayer for the entire year.

A taxpayer must also consider support when determining whether the criteria has been met. This can be tricky with college students who may contribute to their own support. In general, a qualifying child does not pay for more than half of his own support.

Besides tax-related topics, the term qualifying child may be applied to other situations as well. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, it may be used in benefit documentation and applications. In some countries, it is also used on applications for welfare benefits.


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