Tax dependency and going to school out of state

I already filed my childs tax forms as an independent but realized that he should really be a dependent. Does he qualify as “living with me” if he went to school out of state all year and had a job in the state where he went to school in the summer? He filed as a resident of the state where he was working but I would change that to residing in my state of residence if it is acceptable to be out of state all year as a student and working during the summer? Also, will any issues come up from the IRS about changing from independent to dependent, by filing an amended return? He actually should have filed as dependent.

I believe that the test to see if he is a dependent is the support rule. Did you provide over 50% of his support for the year in question?

IRS dependency has its own rules and it is entirely possible that you can take him as a dependent even if he doesn’t live with you. Look at the rules (and if you are divorced, there are different rules).

Either way, he’s probably a dependent for FAFSA purposes if he’s under 24.

Has he taken other steps to become a resident of the state where he’s going to college? For example has he changed his drivers license or voter registration? A student “temporarily” away at college counts as living with you during those months. But if he has become a resident of another state then he is not away temporarily. So in this case he would fail the “qualifying child” test.

If he is not living with you then the next question is how much he earned (including taxable scholarships). If that is more than $4200 then he would fail the alternative “qualifying relative” test. See table 5 in

Incidentally the overall tax position may be more favorable this year in certain circumstances if he is independent since he should then receive the $1200 COVID advance tax refund, which is more than the $500 child tax credit you will lose. But that depends on your income (generally if it is lower then it is often better for him to remain as a dependent)

Please clarify…are you trying to determine if your child is dependent for FAFSA purposes? If that is your question, the answer is probably YES if the kid is an undergrad.

The kid’s IRS status has absolutely nothing to do with FAFSA dependency issues. There are very specific questions on the FAFSA and you have to answer yes to one to be independent for financial aid purposes.

So…is your kid a military veteran? Is he married? Does he have a child he supports? Was he ever a ward if the state or in foster care? Was he ever legally declared part of another family? Is he over the age of 24? Does he have a bachelors degree already?

If he can’t answer yes to one Any of the above questions posted on the FAFSA form, he is a dependent for FAFSA and need based financial aid purposes.

The OP is talking about dependency for IRS purposes, not FAFSA.

There might be some tax credit advantages if this student is a dependent for tax purposes.


Both of our kids went to out of state undergrad schools. Both lived in the college state at least one summer. Both had jobs in the OOS college state.

In both cases, we declared them as dependents on our federal tax returns. They filed their own returns as well using our home address because that was their permanent address. In both cases, they filed state taxes as non-residents in their college states.

I am not a tax expert, but if you made a mistake, you can file an amended return.

The different dependency and residency requirements and definitions can be easily mixed up and confused. Being a legal resident of a state can be different than being an instate resident for tuition purposes can be different than being a dependent for tax purposes can be different than being a dependent for FAFSA.

If OP is asking about being a dependent for tax purposes, he/she needs to go through the IRS dependency rules. OP should go to Chapter 3 of IRS Pub 17 (“Dependents,” pg. 25) and read everything, including the footnotes. Than read it all again; it’s 10 1/2 pages of fun. Have a good understanding of the five tests for being a Qualifying Child, and if necessary the four tests for being a Qualifying Relative.

And yes, eligibility for either a parent or a student to take an education tax credit will hinge in part on tax dependency.