My parents are retired and support themselves with pension and savings I send them. They both stayed with me for 5 months last year in the US, but mostly spend their time in India. They both have SSN numbers from when they worked in the US years ago, so adding them to my tax return won't be an issue.

I was wondering if I can claim them as dependents in my tax returns given that when they stayed with me I paid for the lodging and all their expenditure. If this is possible, is there any documentation required to prove this?

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    Are they US citizens/green card holders? And how much of their support comes from what you send them? – littleadv Feb 10 '14 at 1:59
  • No, they are neither US citizens nor green card holders. I would say 50%. – vivekian2 Feb 10 '14 at 2:17
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    Then you may not claim them as dependents. See @Dilip's quote. – littleadv Feb 10 '14 at 2:34

Well, one of the requirements for you to be able to claim someone as a dependent is that he/she must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien. So the key issue here is whether your parents are resident aliens.

Someone is a resident alien if they pass either the substantial presence test, or the green card test. Your parents don't have green cards, so it's the substantial presence test that is relevant. This is where how long they've stayed in the U.S. is important.

They satisfy the substantial presence test for 2013 if: (number of days they were present in the U.S. in 2013) + 1/3 of (number of days they were present in the U.S. in 2012) + 1/6 of (number of days they were present in the U.S. in 2011) >= 183 days.

Do they satisfy that? If they do, then they are resident aliens for 2013. If they are resident aliens, then they can be claimed as dependents.

Note-1: if they are resident aliens, all their worldwide income would be subject to U.S. taxes.

Note-2: As per this IRS link,to pass substantial presence test, you have to be in USA atleast 30 days for the current year in addition 183 days calculation which includes current year and last two years/.

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  • fantastic in-depth answer! and the note is invaluable. – vivekian2 Feb 10 '14 at 19:53

From IRS Publication 17, top of page 26,

You cannot claim a person as a dependent unless that person is a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.

So, what is your parents' status vis a vis this point?

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  • They are not U.S. citizens or resident aliens. They are Indian citizens. – vivekian2 Feb 10 '14 at 2:18
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    @vivekian2 "... They are Indian citizens" and presumably not residents of Canada or Mexico. Any other loopholes? – Dilip Sarwate Feb 10 '14 at 2:31
  • I did not know about this restriction, I am glad I asked :). Now, I won't spend anymore time on this. Thanks for the clarification. – vivekian2 Feb 10 '14 at 2:36
  • @vivekian2: How do you know they are not "resident aliens"? Someone is a resident alien for tax purposes if they satisfy the substantial presence test for that year. – user102008 Feb 10 '14 at 8:27

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