Exemptions directly reduce your taxable income. You are
allowed a personal exemption for yourself, your spouse if
married filing jointly, and each person you can claim as
a dependent. For 2009, the exemption amount is $3,650, unless
your income exceeds certain limits.
You can take a personal exemption for yourself unless another
taxpayer can claim you as a dependent. Even if the other
taxpayer does not take an exemption for you, you cannot
claim the personal exemption.
If you file a joint return, you can claim an exemption
for your spouse.
If you are filing separate returns, or as head of household,
you can claim an exemption for your spouse only if you meet
all of the following:
Your spouse has no gross income.
Your spouse is not filing a return.
Your spouse was not another taxpayer's
If your spouse could be claimed as someone else's dependent,
you cannot claim the exemption, even if the other taxpayer
does not claim the exemption for your spouse.
If your spouse died during the year and you did not remarry,
you can claim an exemption for your spouse if you are filing
a joint return in the year of your spouse's death.
You can claim one exemption for each person you can claim
as a dependent. Even if your dependent files a return, you
can still claim a personal exemption for him or her.
You can take one exemption for each qualifying child or
relative if the person meets three tests:
- Dependent Taxpayer Test
- If you could be claimed as a dependent by another
taxpayer, you cannot claim anyone else as your dependent.
This is true even if you have a qualifying child or
- Joint Return Test
- You generally cannot claim a married person as a
dependent if he or she files a joint return.
- This test does not apply if a joint return is filed
by a dependent only to claim a refund and no tax liability
exists for either spouse, even if they filed separate
- Citizen or Resident Test
- You cannot claim an exemption for a dependent unless
the person is a U.S. citizen, resident alien, national,
or a resident of Canada or Mexico for at least part
of the year.
- If you are a U.S. citizen or national who has legally
adopted a child who is not a U.S. citizen, resident
alien, or national, this test is met if the dependent
lived as a member of your household the entire tax year.
If you are a non-resident alien, generally you can only
claim an exemption for yourself. You cannot claim an exemption
for your spouse or any dependents.
This does not apply to residents of Canada, Mexico, or
certain residents of India and Korea. This also does not
apply if you are a non-resident alien married to a U.S.
citizen or resident alien, and have chosen to be treated
as a resident of the United States.
Phaseout of Exemptions
For 2009, the exemption amount is gradually reduced, but
not below $2,433 per exemption, when your modified adjusted
gross income exceeds:
$125,1000 for married filing separately
$166,800 for single
$208,500 for head of household
$250,200 for married filing jointly
or qualifying widow(er)
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