Can My Daughter Claim Her Lazy Boyfriend as a Dependent?


Dear Penny,

My 21-year-old daughter has been living with her boyfriend for the past seven months. He is the same age as she is and is unemployed. He shows absolutely no desire to find employment, nor does he have the drive to do so, which makes me irritated knowing that he is taking advantage of her kindness. 

I asked her about it and all she tells me is, “I don’t mind helping him.” I know she is hurting financially because she pays the rent, groceries, gas, etc. My question is: When it’s time to file 2022 income taxes, could she legally claim him as a “dependent” even though they are NOT married? And what other deductions can she claim?


Dear L.,

Clearly, taxes are the least of your daughter’s problems. But unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like your daughter can legally claim her boyfriend on her 2022 tax return.

To claim someone as a dependent on a federal tax return, they need to meet a four-part IRS definition of a “qualifying relative.” (No, they don’t have to actually be a relative to meet the criteria). They need to live with you for the entire calendar year, they have to have less than $4,400 in gross income for 2022, you have to pay more than half of their support for the year, and no one else can claim them as a dependent.

If your daughter’s boyfriend has only lived with her for seven months, he wouldn’t meet the first criteria. But if this living situation continues through the entirety of the next calendar year — and I really hope it doesn’t — your daughter could claim him in 2023.

It’s also doubtful that your daughter would qualify for other deductions. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 nearly doubled the standard deduction. For 2022, the standard deduction is $12,950. For the overwhelming majority of taxpayers, particularly renters, itemizing deductions doesn’t make sense. Any deductions they qualify for will add up to far less than $12,950. So if you’re looking for a silver lining in this relationship, it’s not going to come in the form of a bigger tax refund for 2022.

For complex tax situations, I typically recommend readers consult with a certified public accountant or an attorney instead of relying on an advice columnist. But this one’s not especially complicated, so I don’t think your daughter needs to shell out money for a pro. When she files her return next year, she can use a free tax software program, which will guide her to the same answers I’m giving you.

What interests me, though, is the fact that you’re thinking about your adult daughter’s taxes — and it’s only October. I suspect you’re trying to muster whatever advice you can to fix this financial trainwreck. You can’t motivate her boyfriend to work, nor can you lower her rent or grocery bill, so tax guidance is the only thing you can offer.

Now it’s time to step back. She knows you don’t approve of her boyfriend. Focus on maintaining a good relationship with your daughter. That means you’ll need to be cordial to her boyfriend.

Sometimes these situations have a way of working themselves out. Living with someone who has zero ambition gets old after a while. Even though your daughter claims she doesn’t mind helping her boyfriend, I’d say the odds of her eventually concluding that he’s a mooch are pretty high.

What you can do is avoid enabling this situation. Even though you assume your daughter is struggling financially, it doesn’t sound like she’s asking you for money. But should she turn to you at some point for financial help, don’t give her money. Be firm that if she needs assistance with bills, that will need to come from her boyfriend.

Your frustration is understandable. But having the freedom to make mistakes is what forces us to grow up. If you harp on the issue, you may wind up only sharpening your daughter’s resolve to make this relationship work. Don’t offer financial or relationship advice unless your daughter asks for it. But do say a silent prayer that this relationship will be over before tax season.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].


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