Senior spouses reading leaflet about medication, sitting on sofa in living room interior and looking at each other, discussing treatment after visiting doctor.

Can I Claim My Sick Spouse as a Dependent?

Caring for a spouse can cause financial strain. Can you claim them as a dependent on your taxes?

Reviewed by
Sarah Trott

When one spouse becomes sick, the other may choose to take on a caregiving role. 

This can create certain challenges. The sick spouse is probably experiencing a range of emotions—think guilt, frustration, or fear. At the same time, the family caregiver may feel resentful, overwhelmed, or financially unstable. 

All of these feelings are valid. But they aren’t easy. 

The truth is that there is a lot at stake when one spouse cares for the other. There’s also a great deal of confusion, which brings us to a common question. Can one spouse claim the other as a dependent? 

What Is a Dependent?

A dependent is a person who relies on someone else for financial support. This support includes basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. 

Children are the most common types of dependents, but they aren’t the only ones you can claim on your tax return. Under certain circumstances, you can claim a domestic partner as a dependent too.

Once you claim someone as a dependent, you prove to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that you are financially responsible for them. However, there are certain nuances to consider.

What Are the IRS Requirements for Claiming a Dependent?

The IRS outlines two types of dependents: qualifying children and qualifying relatives.

While married people cannot under normal circumstances claim each other as dependents, domestic partners may be able to do so under the “qualifying relative” umbrella. 

For married couples where one spouse is ill or disabled, the healthy spouse may be able to claim an exemption. These are the criteria for doing so:

  • If you and your spouse are filing jointly, you can claim an exemption for yourself and an exemption for your spouse on your tax return.
  • If you and your spouse are filing separately, you can only claim an exception for your spouse if they had no gross income, isn’t filing a tax return, and wasn’t another taxpayer’s dependent.

While the IRS is strict with their requirements, the healthy spouse has options. They can still save money in their family caregiving role.

What Are Some Tips for Taxpayers with Sick Spouses?

Even if you aren’t eligible to claim your sick spouse as a dependent, there are a number of tax tips you can follow to save money. Consider the following:

Adjust your income tax withholding.

If your spouse is ill and no longer able to work, you may find yourself in a lower tax bracket when filing jointly. This means you may be able to increase your withholding allowance. To do so, you’ll need to adjust your W-4 form.

Track your spouse’s medical expenses.

Make sure to claim all of your spouse’s medical expenses—especially if the total amount is higher than the deductible limit (7.5% of your income in 2022). You can include the cost of medical care, prescriptions, and mileage in your write-offs. 

Consider tax credits.

The Tax Credit for the Elderly and Disabled is for low-income taxpayers who qualify. You may qualify if a doctor claims your spouse’s illness or disability prevents them from working, or if your spouse received taxable disability income. Another factor is that your spouse’s condition is slated to last longer than a year or result in death.

Caring for a sick spouse can be difficult, and navigating taxes only makes things more challenging. Be sure to ask for help when needed—and know that you aren’t alone.

Let Aidaly Guide You

Curious about earning money in your family caregiving role?  

Aidaly can help you navigate this. Check your eligibility for compensation while you care for your sick spouse.

We jump every hurdle with  you. Let’s start today.