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Disability Dependent Eligibility: What You Should Know

Last updated: October 10, 2023

Dive into our comprehensive guide about dependents, exploring types, federal tax rules, Social Security benefits, health insurance coverage, legal considerations, and more! Find out about the requirements to qualify as a dependent and the various tax benefits you can receive from claiming them.

Additionally, understand the eligibility for international dependents and their access to benefits. The valuable information in this article will help you make well-informed decisions regarding dependents and ensure you are maximizing the benefits available to you.

How to Define Dependents

A dependent is a person who relies on someone else for financial support, most often a family member. In the context of taxation, a dependent is someone whose expenses are claimed by another taxpayer on their tax return, which can result in various tax deductions, exemptions, or credits.

The individual claiming the dependent saves money on their taxes by reducing their taxable income. Along with providing financial relief to the taxpayer, it also acknowledges the responsibility of providing financial support to another person.

Dependents can include a diverse range of individuals, including children, relatives, and in some cases, even non-relatives. The rules and regulations surrounding who can be claimed as a dependent may vary depending on the tax laws in a particular country. It's crucial to understand the specific requirements and criteria to claim someone as a dependent in a given jurisdiction before filing taxes.

Types of Dependents

There are two primary types of dependents: qualifying children and qualifying relatives. Each of these categories has its own set of criteria that need to be met in order for a taxpayer to claim them as a dependent.

Qualifying Child: A qualifying child is typically a taxpayer's son, daughter, stepchild, sibling, or grandchild. To qualify, the child must meet the following criteria:

  • Age: The child must be under the age of 19 or a full-time student under the age of 24. There is no age limit for children with disabilities.
  • Relationship: The child must be related to the taxpayer in the ways mentioned above.
  • Residency: The child must have lived with the taxpayer for more than half of the tax year.
  • Support: The child must not have provided more than half of their own support during the tax year.

Qualifying Relative: A qualifying relative can include various family members and, in some cases, even non-relatives. To qualify, the individual must meet the following criteria:

  • Not a Qualifying Child: The person must not meet the criteria to be considered a qualifying child.

  • Relationship: The person must be related to the taxpayer in any way mentioned in the tax laws or live with the taxpayer for the whole tax year as a member of their residence.

  • Income: The person's gross income must be below a certain threshold during the tax year. This threshold may vary depending on the country's tax laws.

  • Support: The taxpayer must provide more than half of the person's total financial support during the tax year.

Dependent Relationship Categories

There are various family and non-family relationships that can qualify someone as a dependent in the eyes of tax authorities. The following are some of the common dependent relationship categories:

  • Direct relatives: These are immediate family members, such as children, siblings, and parents. Direct relatives usually have the most straightforward path to being considered dependents.

  • Extended relatives: This category includes a taxpayer's extended family members, such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. These individuals may also be considered dependents if they meet the relevant qualifying criteria.

  • In-law relationships: Family members related by marriage, such as a son-in-law or daughter-in-law, may also qualify as dependents if they meet the necessary requirements.

  • Adopted and foster children: In most cases, adopted children are treated the same as biological children for dependency purposes. Foster children may also qualify as dependents if they meet the relevant criteria, such as residing with the taxpayer for a specific period of time.

  • Non-relatives: Under certain circumstances, even non-relatives can be considered dependents. For example, if a taxpayer provides significant financial support to a friend who lives in their home for the entire year, the friend may meet the requirements to be classified as a dependent.

Each country's tax laws define specific rules and criteria for determining whether a person can be considered a dependent, so it's important to familiarize yourself with your jurisdiction's requirements before attempting to claim someone on your tax return.

Social Security Benefits for Dependents

Eligible Dependent Categories

When it comes to Social Security benefits, there are several categories of dependents who may be eligible. These categories include spouses, divorced spouses, children, adult disabled children, and parents. Understanding the eligibility criteria for each group is essential for ensuring that you and your dependents receive the proper benefits.


A spouse may be eligible to collect benefits based on their partner's Social Security record. Typically, this means the spouse will receive up to 50% of the worker's benefit. In order to qualify, the couple must be legally married and the spouse must be at least 62 years old. If the spouse is caring for a child under the age of 16 or a disabled child, there is no minimum age requirement.

Divorced Spouses

Divorced spouses can also qualify for benefits based on their ex-spouse's Social Security record. In this case, the marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years, and the divorced spouse must be at least 62 years old. Additionally, the divorced spouse must be unmarried, and their benefit based on their own work history must be lower than the benefit they would receive from their ex-spouse's record.


Children of a worker receiving Social Security benefits may also qualify for benefits, as long as they are unmarried and either under the age of 18 or between 18 and 19 years old and enrolled as a full-time student in secondary education. In some cases, children can still receive benefits beyond age 19 if they have a disability that began before turning 22 years old.

Adult Disabled Children

Adult disabled children can receive benefits based on their parent's Social Security record if they suffered a disability before turning 22. This benefit remains available regardless of the child's age and is not impacted by the child's marital status. However, if the adult disabled child marries, their benefits may be affected.


In some cases, dependent parents may qualify for benefits based on their child's Social Security record. The parent must be at least 62 years old, unmarried, and have limited income and resources. Additionally, the parent must rely on their child for at least half of their financial support.

Calculating Dependent Benefits

The amount of Social Security benefits a dependent receives is typically based on the worker's benefit. As previously mentioned, spouses and divorced spouses can receive up to 50% of the worker's benefit. Children may receive up to 50% of the worker's benefit as well, but there is a family maximum in place that limits the total amount paid to all family members.

When calculating benefits for adult disabled children, the amount depends on the worker's primary insurance amount (PIA) and the type of benefits the worker receives. For example, when a worker receives retirement or disability benefits, the adult disabled child can receive up to 50% of the worker's PIA. However, if the worker dies, the adult disabled child may receive up to 75% of the worker's PIA.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is considered a dependent for eligibility purposes?

A dependent typically refers to a person who is economically reliant on the taxpayer. This could include children under the age of 19, or 24 if they're a full-time student, and relatives who live with you for more than half the year and make less than $4,300 per annum.

2. What factors determine a dependent's eligibility?

Multiple factors, such as age, relationship, residency, and income, determine a dependent's eligibility. For instance, the dependent should be a qualifying child or relative, they should be a U.S. citizen, national, or a resident of the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, and their gross income should be less than the exemption amount for that tax year.

3. Can a person claim more than one dependent?

Yes, an individual can claim more than one dependent on their tax return. Each qualifying dependent may allow the taxpayer to claim an exemption, a child tax credit, or an earned income tax credit, potentially reducing their tax burden significantly. However, each dependent must meet specific IRS criteria to be eligible.


In conclusion, eligibility for dependents involves nuanced IRS criteria and relies on factors such as relationship, age, residency, and income. It's essential for taxpayers to understand these rules as claiming dependents can significantly impact tax obligations and benefits. While multiple dependents can be claimed, each must separately meet the eligibility criteria to ensure compliance with IRS regulations.

If you reside in California, navigate disability rights in your state by reading through our blogs at Disability Help today.

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Victor Traylor
An expert to the field of Social Justice, Victor formed Disability Help to connect ideas and expertise from the US with rising global cultural leadership, building networks, fostering collaboration, long-term results, mutual benefit, and more extensive international perception.
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