How does the tax code define a dependent?

A dependent, for tax purposes, is a qualifying child or relative of the taxpayer as established by the IRS. This includes a child, parent, sibling, or stepchild, but not a spouse. There are tax benefits that a taxpayer can request for having a dependent. The Department of the Treasury and the IRS have concluded that this change in position is consistent with the language and purpose of section 32 and will be less confusing for taxpayers and easier for the IRS to administer.

The Department of the Treasury and the IRS propose this rule to facilitate administration for both the IRS and taxpayers, in order to avoid the need to track the use of such government payments, as opposed to the use of other funds of the recipient, to support another person. While there is no regulatory guide on this topic, since 1995, the IRS has taken the position in IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit, that if a person meets the definition of a qualifying child for more than one taxpayer and is not treated as a qualifying child of a taxpayer under the tiebreaker rules, that taxpayer cannot apply for the EIC without children.