can you claim someone in prison on your

Can You Claim Someone in Prison on Your Taxes


Tax season often brings up a plethora of questions, especially when it comes to claiming dependents. What if your dependent is incarcerated? Is it still possible to claim someone in prison on your taxes? Let’s delve into this topic to provide clarity.

The Concept of Dependency in Taxes

In the realm of taxes, a dependent is a person other than the taxpayer or spouse who entitles the taxpayer to claim a dependency exemption. This generally results in a reduction of tax liability.

Dependency Tests for Tax Claims

Before you claim someone as a dependent, they must meet either the ‘Qualifying Child’ or ‘Qualifying Relative’ test set by the IRS.

Qualifying Child

The IRS outlines five tests to consider: relationship, age, residency, support, and joint return.

Qualifying Relative

The qualifying relative test also involves four distinct criteria: they aren’t the qualifying child of any taxpayer, they either live with you all year as a member of your household or are related to you in one of the ways listed by the IRS, their gross income for the year must be less than the exemption amount, and you must provide more than half of their total support for the year.

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Special Circumstances: Can a Prisoner Be Claimed?

While the guidelines do not specifically discuss prisoners, it is technically possible to claim a prisoner as a dependent if they meet the ‘Qualifying Child’ or ‘Qualifying Relative’ tests.

Understanding the IRS Guidelines

Incarceration and Income

Prisoners might have an income through prison jobs. This income, however, is often negligible and wouldn’t usually affect their dependent status.

Prisoner’s Income and Tax Return

Even while incarcerated, prisoners are obliged to file a tax return if they earn more than the stipulated income for the respective year.

How to Claim a Prisoner on Your Taxes

Collecting Necessary Information

Before you can claim someone in prison, you need to gather crucial information such as their Social Security Number, income details, and more.

Filing the Tax Return

When you’re ready to file your return, the process is the same as claiming any other dependent.

Potential Challenges and Considerations

Possible Audit and Verification

Claiming an incarcerated individual can increase your chances of an audit, so make sure you have all your documentation in place.

Ensuring Accurate and Honest Claim

Honesty is key. Claiming someone in prison can be legal, but only if they genuinely meet the criteria.


Navigating the tax landscape can be complex, especially when dealing with unique situations such as claiming a prisoner as a dependent. Understanding the rules and guidelines set out by the IRS is crucial to making informed decisions and maintaining compliance.


  1. Can a prisoner file their own taxes? Yes, prisoners are obliged to file a tax return if their income exceeds the designated amount for that tax year.
  2. Does income earned in prison count towards gross income? Yes, income earned in prison should be considered as part of gross income for tax purposes.
  3. Can claiming a prisoner on your taxes lead to an audit? It can increase the possibility, hence, always ensure you have proper documentation.
  4. What if the prisoner gets released during the tax year? The release does not automatically disqualify them from being your dependent. If they meet the criteria, they can be claimed.
  5. Can I claim a friend who is incarcerated as a dependent? If they meet the ‘Qualifying Relative’ test, you may be able to claim them.
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