Dear Penny: We’re Raising our Granddaughter. Can We Claim Her on Our Taxes?

Grandparents spend time with their granddaughter outside.
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Dear Penny,

My husband and I are raising our granddaughter. We have gotten no help from her mother with food, etc. My husband is on SSI for income and I’m not working at the moment. So we live off $940.00 a month. Can he file taxes for our granddaughter as supporting, as her mom has no income?

—Second-Round Parents

Dear Second-Round,

Whether you can claim a grandchild as a dependent for tax purposes could be complicated, so I recommend consulting with a tax expert about the details of your situation to figure out whether this makes sense for you.

With your income, you qualify for free tax prep assistance under the IRS VITA program. Use the IRS locator tool to find VITA tax assistance in your area:

In most cases, the custodial parent of a child can claim the child as a dependent if they lived with the parent for more than half the year and received more than half of their support from the parent. If your granddaughter lived with and was supported by her mom or another parent for more than half of 2023, that parent could claim her for 2023 taxes (that will be filed this year).

If your granddaughter lived with you and received support from you for more than half the year, however, you can likely claim her as a dependent as what the IRS calls a “qualifying child.”

To be a qualifying child, the IRS lists these requirements:

  • They must be a U.S. citizen, resident alien or national or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
  • They must be your child, stepchild, sibling, step-sibling, foster child or adopted child, or the child of one of these (i.e. your grandchild).
  • They must be under the age of 19 (24 if they’re a full-time student, no age restriction is they’re permanently disabled).

You can use the Interactive Tax Assistant from the IRS to determine whether your situation qualifies: Visit, and scroll down to find “Whom may I claim as a dependent?

Claiming your granddaughter as a dependent can have a significant impact on your finances. Depending on her age and your other circumstances, it could qualify you for several tax credits and deductions for caretakers, including:

  • The Child Tax Credit
  • The Child and Dependent Care Credit
  • Education Credits
  • Medical Expense Deductions

Her mom or other parent might file a tax return even if they had no income. Anyone who got a health insurance premium tax credit (i.e. assistance through or “Obamacare”) is required to file a return. They might also file to receive some tax credits that don’t require income.

If any of her parents plans to file a tax return, try to communicate with them about who can claim your grandchild as a dependent. Have this conversation with a tax expert to answer questions if you think there could be a conflict.

If you can’t have this conversation with the parent(s), let your tax preparer know about the situation so they can advise you on the best way to ensure you can claim your granddaughter without an issue. If multiple people claim her, your tax return could be rejected, and you’d have to amend it and re-file.

Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance®, author, speaker and personal finance journalist. She writes Healthy Rich, a newsletter about how capitalism impacts the ways we think, teach and talk about money.