How to Claim a Dependent Who Receives Social Security Disability

By Carrie Ferland
Social security disability is not considered income by the IRS

Social Security disability, also known as the Social Security Disability Insurance program, is a social welfare program in the United States that provides income to individuals who are not able to work because of a qualifying disability. The word “income” is a misnomer, however, because Social Security Disability is not actually considered income for tax-related purposes. If you have an eligible dependent whose only source of support is through the Social Security Disability Insurance program, or SSD, you may be able to claim him as a dependent on your income tax return.

Meet the requirements to claim the individual as a “dependent.” As a rule, children who are under 19 (or, if the child is a college student, 24) years of age are considered dependents of their parents because they do not provide more than half of their own support. Regardless of age, this same requirement is applied to any applicable individual for whom you provide at least 51% of their support. Parents, grandparents, and in some states, even girlfriends/boyfriends and domestic partners (heterosexual or homosexual), can qualify as your dependent so long as they lived with you more than six months of the previous year, and they receive more than half of their financial support from you.

Meet the income eligibility requirements. The dependent in this case must earn less than the maximum amount required to file a tax return from all applicable resources, including employment, dividends, interest and other assets. The maximum amount changes on a regular basis, so you will need to review the IRS’s current income guidelines to see what the income limit is for the year you are filing. Remember, SSDI does not count as income for the dependent for tax purposes, so do not include this in your calculations.

Make sure the individual’s SSDI does not cover more than half of their own support. While SSDI does not count as income, even if it exceeds the maximum amount for tax-filing exemption status, it does count towards dependency status. For example, if the dependent received $6,000 in Social Security disability, and you only paid $5,000 towards support for the dependent that same year, you cannot claim her as a dependent for tax purposes.

File your tax return as “head of household” if you qualify to list the individual as a dependent. Even if the dependent is older than you, you are considered the head of the household because you support him.

Do not list the dependent’s Social Security disability as income anywhere on your tax return. You do not receive the benefits; the dependent does. Even if the Social Security disability income is paid to you on behalf of your child or relative, the money is meant to support the dependent.

Tip

Contact the IRS if you have questions about your filing

About the Author

Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.