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Tax Law (Questions About Taxes)/Income tax return claiming a dependent


Hello John,
I hope youíre able to sort this out for me, I live in Texas and I file Married Jointly and take the standard deduction my wife doesnít work. My question is can I claim my brother-in-law as a dependent (my wifeís brother), heís around 46 years old and a convicted felon. He is living in a house that I own and furnish while my wife and son and I are living with my 85 year old father in my fatherís house so that we can take care of him. My brother-in-law has not filed an income tax return for years. I know for a fact that this past year he has not had a job, other than odd jobs that he gets paid in cash and he hasnít made more than $1000 or way less cash this whole year. I pay the mortgage on the house the electric bill, water bill, cable bill, and trash pickup, everything that goes along with owning a house. We even help him out with food sometimes plus he drives a vehicle I own. All that being said I pay way more than 50% of his expenses so that he can live somewhere and in return he doesnít pay me a dime. I think I should be able to claim him as a dependent but what Iím worried about is his past. I know he owes student loans has medical bills in the thousands and no telling who else he owes, for all I know he may owe the IRS money. Iím expecting a pretty large return this year, but Iím afraid my return will be garnished if I claim him as a dependent. Is there anything the IRS or anyone else can take from me or punish him for if I claim him as a dependent?


Thanks for your question.

You can claim him as a depending if his gross income is under $3,950.  Your refund can't be garnished, that only happens with wages and salaries.  It is unlikely that your refund could be taken to satisfy his debts - they are not supposed to, but you never know what happens.  Additionally, since he had not filed in years, your claiming him as a dependent could raise some flags with a 46 year old suddenly being claimed as a dependent and not filing returns.

Hope this helps.

John Stancil, CPA

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John Stancil, CPA


I can answer questions on personal income taxes, partnerships, and some corporate income taxes. I can deal with some state tax questions. Limited gift and estate tax questions. I am also familiar with ministerial and church tax reporting issues. I am Professor Emeritus at Florida Southern College. Sales taxes and property taxes are state and local issues so I am not likely be be able to give you an in depth answer on those types of taxes. I have maintained a CPA practice, specializing in tax, for over 35 years. I am a member of the National Association of Tax Professionals, The Florida Insititute of CPA's, The NCPE Fellowship. In addition I am a Certified Mentor for SCORE. Visit my website at I also offer seminars and consultations to churches and clergy on their tax issues at Also visit my blog, I am listed on Tax Connections at Prepare and file your own taxes at


I hold a doctorate in Accounting, and am a CPA. My certifications of CIA, CFM, and CMA are inactive. I passed all certification examinations on the first attempt, and received honorable mention for my scores on the CIA exam. I have operated a CPA firm for over 37 years and have taught accounting and tax at the college level for over 35 years.

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The CPA Journal, Florida CPA Today, Green Consumer, Green Business, Global Sustainability as a Business Imperative, Palmetto Review, NATP TaxPro Quarterly, Mustang Journal of Finance and Accounting.

DBA University of Memphis MBA University of Georgia BS in Accounting Mars Hill University

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