General Question

tigerlilly2's avatar

My mom is trying to claim me on her taxes. Is this right or wrong?

Asked by tigerlilly2 (1250points) February 7th, 2012

I have a question involving taxes and maybe one of you could help me out, I would really appreciate it! My husband and myself filed our taxes last week as a joint married couple. This morning we got a call from H and R Block saying that the IRS could not process our claim because someone else had already claimed me and my tax credit that I get for being a student. Turns out, that person was my mother. She believes she is justified in claiming me because I lived with her for eight months in 2011. My husband and I were married on September 17th 2011, if that helps. The IRS website said that a married person filing jointly cannot be claimed as a dependent, regardless of how long they have lived with their parent. My mom is saying that I have an option to file as a dependent and thus would enable her to get the money that I would be getting, even though she hasn’t and won’t pay anything toward my student loans. She’s also stated that I “stabbed her in the back” because I filed as a married person (but I am!). She says that because she let me live with her while I was a full-time student, that I owe that to her. Her doing this has caused not only our tax returns to be screwed up, but also our FAFSA that we have already filed. So, now I may not get any financial aid for next semester. What can I do?

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21 Answers

geeky_mama's avatar

If H&R Block is helping you with your taxes they should also know to advise you that you CAN file via paper and mail it in – and then the IRS will investigate the two filings (your mother’s and yours) and make a determination.

We ran into a similar situation last year. My stepdaughter’s biological mother who did not have custody filed taxes claiming our stepdaughter as a dependent. When we tried to file electronically it failed because the IRS saw a claim (with her as a dependent) with her SS #. Per the divorce decree SD is our legal dependent (and she lived with us 99% of the time and we pay for ALL her expenses – school, medical, clothes, etc.)—so when our e-filing failed we kind of knew it was something bogus her bio-mom had done.

Our Accountant advised us to paper file which would trigger an internal IRS investigation.
We did this – and the IRS figured out (relatively) quickly that her filing was bogus and they seized the funds from her. (She had collected thousands of dollars claiming SD as her dependent when she shouldn’t have.)

Go back to your Accountant (and make sure they’ve handled this kind of situation before – you might want to even look for another really experienced accountant if you aren’t getting warm fuzzies from this H&R Block office) and request their advice on next steps. They should suggest the paper filing as a next step.

tigerlilly2's avatar

@geeky_mama Thank you very much! I will make sure to file a paper claim so the IRS can determine what to do. So, in other words, it was okay for me to file the way that I did? As a married person filing jointly?

geeky_mama's avatar

@tigerlilly2 – I’m sorry to say I’m not up on tax laws. Hopefully your accountant can advise you on that sounds like it could go either way. (Seems like you could do either – file individually and as your mother’s dependent or as a married filing jointly.)

Certainly, I feel for you because it sounds like it’s contentious between you and your mom and like she’s unfairly trying to get money that shouldn’t belong to her. (By claiming you as a dependent.)

What mystifies me is how she managed to claim you as a dependent without having your W2s and other income statements. If she’s going to claim you as a dependent she needs to have declared the income you earned (if any) in 2011..or at least that’s what I remember from back when my Dad claimed me as a dependent while I was still a college student.

I’m sorry for you…that’s a tough one.

WestRiverrat's avatar

What my sister and parents did in your situation was did the taxes each way and the one that ended up saving the most in taxes was used. Then the difference was split between my parents and my sister and her husband.

Maybe discuss it with your mother and your tax preparer, then file your paper return.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

File the way you know is correct. Print it out and mail it in. When the IRS discoveres you have been claimed twice, they will investigate and your Mom will be in a pickle. This is the way it seems would give you what is yours. I’m not a tax pro, but geeky mama and I are thinking along the same lines.

marmoset's avatar

You could also tell her what you’re about to do and give her the option of amending/withdrawing her filing, because if she will do that, it seems that would be to everyone’s benefit.

cazzie's avatar

I think YOU might be the one in the pickle. I don’t think you can file jointly for a year when you weren’t married the entire time. You need to clear it up with your H&R Block people, or someone else.

cazzie's avatar

Nope, I’m wrong… you can be married on the last day of the tax year and still be considered married for the whole year. That is just weird. See why I never practised accounting in the US. Talk about screwy!

cazzie's avatar

I don’t think someone can DEMAND you be their dependant if you don’t want to be or if it disadvantages you in some way. I guess it is a matter of e-filing vs paper filing. I guess you could paper file with a letter explaining the situation with your mother trying to claim you against your wishes. I think they may adjust her return, as long as you weren’t filling in financial aid forms using your mother’s income or lack there of for your own benefit. Asking for financial aid, claiming you are a dependent for 2011 and then filing a joint, married return for that same year might be against the rules, but that isn’t what you did?

The tax system and financial aid system in the US is very convoluted. Rely on the professionals to help, but be sure they are fully informed of your whole situation.

marinelife's avatar

@tigerlilly2 Yes. it was not only OK for you to file as a married person jointly, it was the right thing to do.

filmfann's avatar

You said: The IRS website said that a married person filing jointly cannot be claimed as a dependent, regardless of how long they have lived with their parent.
There is your answer.
Your mom will have to refile, which should do wonders for your already suffering relationship.
It is, however, the correct thing to do.

tigerlilly2's avatar

@filmfann That’s why I was asking this on Fluther, my relationship with my mom has suffered because of this but I didn’t try to do anything wrong. I’ve even told the people at H and R block that I did live with her and I was still able to file jointly with my husband.

@cazzie I have to ask for financial aid and file a FAFSA, it’s mandatory in the US. I have never gotten any grants because of my parent’s income, even when they claimed me. I have taken out only loans in my name which I am paying back entirely, if that’s what you mean?

tigerlilly2's avatar

@marmoset I talked to her today to try to tell her what is going on and I mentioned myself paper filing for the IRS to determine it and she started crying and saying that she doesn’t want anything to do with me if I do this to her. The people at H and R Block also said when I talked to them this morning that she will be investigated and possibly flagged for several years. I’m not sure what to do still, because if I don’t go through with paper filing myself and my husband will lose a substantial amount of money. We need it, as we are both college students working and paying bills for our apartment, insurance, etc.

jazmina88's avatar

She could change her return. My Mother has done this on accident. I field a paper claim and got her return ammended.

Maybe your Mother is having a hard time giving you up. I know she has financial woes.
I’m sorry for your situaion.

sinscriven's avatar

@tigerlilly2 : She’s trying to emotionally blackmail you so she can keep the money, you can’t let that happen. You didnt do anything to her. You didn’t force her to file a fradulent claim. You aren’t trying to screw your own child out of thousands because you feel they “owe” you something.

Do what you need to do and assert she needs to amend her return before the IRS reams her. It’s not right for her to be doing this to you, and you shouldn’t take it because she’s your mother.

prioritymail's avatar

I think you got the answer to your question already, so I just want to say I am so sorry this happened!

marmoset's avatar

I am also very sorry you’re going through this. I wonder if her response (which is very extreme emotionally, completely unfair to you) is because she is scared she will be prosecuted by the IRS. I’m no tax expert, but it sounds like her best way to avoid that is to amend her return voluntarily ASAP. Maybe she doesn’t understand that part. Please do not let her emotionally blackmail and bully you into losing that much money. I hope you can resolve this, but it sounds like she is having issues much deeper than this one situation, and this is just how they are coming out. Does your school have a counselor, or do you have other access to a family counseling service? I think a third party counselor or mediator might be able to help the two of you.

wilma's avatar

I agree with @marmoset ^^^
I think your mom might be afraid that she could get into trouble with the IRS and nobody likes that idea.
See if you can approach her with the attitude of trying to help her resolve her problem with her tax filing. Maybe see if you can get a calm understanding friend or counselor to help with this.

tigerlilly2's avatar

I talked to my mom about changing her claim but it was no use. She refuses to accept the fact that she has done anything wrong and so I wrote a letter to the IRS explaining the situation and they have fixed the problem with my refund, thankfully. Sadly, this will probably cause more pain between myself and my mom but I do appreciate your help and support with this you guys! It means a lot to me. I explained this situation to other members of my family and they thought I should just let it be to keep from upsetting my mom and making her have to struggle :/

geeky_mama's avatar

I was thinking of you just the other day when a friend recounted nearly the same experience (her parents claimed her on their taxes when she had only stayed with them for the 2 weeks between graduating from college and going off to grad school) as yours.

She had been supporting herself in University (her parents weren’t paying her tuition or expenses) and got married in June just a couple weeks after graduation (and then promptly moved out – she and her husband got an apartment in a new town near her grad school).
When she and her husband filed their (first joint filing) taxes they found that her parents had already claimed her as a dependent on their tax return. This was back in the 1980s and apparently there was even more of a financial impact (so she says) to not being able to file as married for her..

They tried fighting it with her parents and in the end couldn’t get them to budge. They saw the refund they got by claiming her as a dependent (despite the fact she didn’t live with them – just stayed with them for 2 weeks in the summer…and she WORKED for them those whole 2 weeks!) as justified by their years of parenting her. They felt the money was “owed” to them. My friend and her husband didn’t agree – but also didn’t fight it – but they surely remember this incident bitterly to this day.

So, don’t let other family members get you down. What your mom is doing is financially to her benefit.. and essentially taking money that would otherwise be yours. To me, as a parent, I find that unbelievably selfish. Me, personally – I couldn’t knowingly take money that belonged to any other person—much less my own children!

She probably has some some perception that you “owe” her for living with her those months. I don’t see how she could possibly have correctly filed without your W2s for any income earned (though, perhaps they were mailed to that address so she had them?)..and opening mail intended for you (like your W2s) is illegal.
So, at best – she’s feeling (mistakenly) entitled and is acting in a highly self-interested manner. At worst, she’s breaking a federal law punishable by jail time:

From the U.S. Code Online via GPO Access
[Laws in effect as of January 3, 2007]
[CITE: 18USC1702]




Sec. 1702. Obstruction of correspondence

Whoever takes any letter, postal card, or package out of any post
office or any authorized depository for mail matter, or from any letter
or mail carrier, or which has been in any post office or authorized
depository, or in the custody of any letter or mail carrier, before it
has been delivered to the person to whom it was directed, with design to
obstruct the correspondence, or to pry into the business or secrets of
another, or opens, secretes, embezzles, or destroys the same, shall be
fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

anniejaqie's avatar

I guess the answer is no. It isn’t wrong as long as your still under age and is still depending on her.

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