I'm a bit lost when it comes to taxes, and I've heard from a few sources that one cannot list their spouse as a dependent.

However, my wife and I got married in October last year, and she has lived with me for the entire year. She did not have any income for the year, so from January to October, I should be able to list her as a dependent, correct?

I've tried different ways of adding this situation to TurboTax, but it seems as if it's an all-or-nothing deal; and since we got married, I can't claim her as dependent for any part of the year.

Am I overlooking something? Is it possible to add her as a dependent? If so, how can I correctly do it? Or is this just a bad idea to add her as a dependent altogether?

  • 2
    It doesn't matter when you got married in 2016. If you are married as of December 31, 2016, you can file a joint tax return for the entire year no matter when during 2016 you got married. On the joint return (which both of you must sign), each of you claims an exemption for themselves and neither ciaims the other as a dependent. If you choose to file separate tax returns (a bad idea in general) then each of you cairns an exemption for themselves on the separate returns and once again, neither gets to claim the other as a dependent. Jan 17, 2017 at 4:19

2 Answers 2


Every person has one personal exemption($4050 in 2016). They are either assigning it to their tax form, or they are acting as a dependent and assigning it to another persons tax form.

So for 2016 (assuming you file jointly) your tax form will have two personal exemptions (spouse_1 and spouse_2). The IRS looks at your marital situation on December 31st (married) and allows you to file married. Thus using both spouses exemptions.

  • I see, that makes sense. So, if we don't file jointly, I could only claim her as a dependent, and if we do file jointly, we could claim each other?
    – Siyual
    Jan 16, 2017 at 18:19
  • 2
    If you file separately then each form will have 1 person with zero dependents. Jan 16, 2017 at 18:45
  • 3
    +1. @Siyual, married filing jointly is what you want to do in this situation. Your wife is a spouse on the return, not a dependent.
    – Ben Miller
    Jan 16, 2017 at 22:35

While the accepted answer addresses the the specific situation I will address the more general question that was asked:

If they otherwise meet the definition of a dependent you can claim a cohabitant as a dependent. Beware, though, that the IRS only permits this when the relationship is legal by local law. Some states still have laws on the books, obviously unenforced, against cohabitation.

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