This question comes up a lot, and the answer — as always — is “maybe.”
The answer to this question lies in the rules surrounding “qualifying relatives.”
Before jumping into the rules for claiming someone as a qualifying relative, I’m going to make an assumption that the boyfriend/girlfriend is not a blood relative of the taxpayer. With that established, these would be the rules for claiming the boyfriend/girlfriend as a dependent:
- The person would need to have lived with the taxpayer all year. Not just “more than half” the year, but ALL year.
- The person’s gross income would need to be less than the exemption amount for that year. For 2016 and 2017 tax returns, that amount is $4,050.
- The taxpayer would need to provide more than 1/2 of the person’s support for the year.
- The person cannot be the qualifying child of another taxpayer. In most cases, this won’t be an issue as long as the person is over age 23 (unless the person is disabled….See how taxes can get tangled very quickly?).
I find that #2 is the holdup in most cases. If the significant other is working a job, they’ll likely have income above the exemption amount, and that blows the entire thing out of the water even if the other 3 items are true.
Head of Household
Even if a taxpayer can claim the significant other as a dependent, this would not qualify the taxpayer for head of household filing status. The dependent would need to be a blood relative in order to qualify for HOH.