You like to be there for your friends, especially when they need a little help getting on their feet. For those friends who have become non-rent paying roommates and are spending nights on your couch, you may be able to get a tax benefit by claiming those friends as a dependent.

Many people think only children and relatives can be claimed as dependents on tax returns. However, if you are supporting your unrelated friends, you may be able to claim them as a dependent, especially if you are providing shelter for them. The theory behind this allowance is that often these friends don’t file their own tax returns, meaning they don’t claim a personal exemption. It’s also thought that you will share your return with them.

What Criteria Must My Friends Meet?

Your friends don’t need to be of the opposite sex as you in order to claim them as a dependent. You are legally able to claim your friends who meet the five criteria set forth by the IRS:

  • You must be responsible for providing half of the other person’s support through the entire tax year. Support includes food, shelter, clothing, health care, education expenses, and other personal expenses.
  • Your friend must be a legal citizen of either the United States, Canada, or Mexico, or be a resident alien.
  • Your friend can’t make more than $3,950 in total taxable income. Gifts, welfare benefits, Social Security, or other nontaxable benefits are not included in income.
  • Your friend needs to have resided in your home for the entire tax year.
  • The person you are claiming as a dependent can’t file a joint tax return with their spouse. The only time this is acceptable, is if the dependent is filing for purposes for a refund only, because their income (combined with their spouse) is less than the required amount needed to file a return.

If your friend meets the five criteria, you’ll likely be able to claim him or her as a dependent on your taxes. This is the best reward for being a good friend.