Joint Return Test
What it is:
How it works (Example):
Taxpayers frequently claim other individuals (for example, children who are minors or disabled adult children) as dependents on their annual income tax returns. A married individual who is claimed as a dependent on another's tax return may not file a joint tax return with his or her spouse.
The IRS's joint return test definitively qualifies an individual as another's dependent for reporting purposes. For example, suppose Bob -- a married man -- is disabled and receives a sum of money each month from his father, Gene. For this reason, Gene wishes to claim Bob as a dependent on his own tax return. To find out if Gene has this option, the IRS runs a joint return test on Bob. If Bob passes the test, Gene may claim him as a dependent, leaving Bob and his spouse to file separate tax returns. If Bob does not pass the joint return test, Gene cannot claim him as a dependent, leaving Bob free to file a joint tax return with his spouse.
Why it Matters:
The joint return test is a measure that prevents taxpayers from claiming undue exemptions. There are two circumstances under which a married individual may be claimed as a dependent and still file a joint return. The first is if both spouses file a tax return solely to receive a due refund and are not otherwise required to file a return. The second is if both spouses carry no joint or individual tax liability.