Tie Breaker Rules

Only one person can use the same qualifying child. If a child is the qualifying child of more than one person, only one person can claim the child as a qualifying child for all of the following tax benefits:

  • EITC
  • Dependency Exemption for the Child,
  • Child tax credit,
  • Head of household filing status,
  • Credit for child and dependent care expenses, and
  • Exclusion for dependent care benefits.


The other person(s) cannot take any of the six tax benefits listed above unless he or she has a different qualifying child.* If they cannot agree on who claims the child as a qualifying child, and more than one person claims tax benefits using the same child, the tiebreaker rule explained below applies.  If the other person is a spouse and they file a joint return, this rules does not apply. 

Under the Tiebreaker Rule, the Child is Treated as a Qualifying Child Only By:

  •  The parents, if they file a joint return;.
  • The parent, if only one of the persons is the child's  parent;
  • The parent with whom the child lived the longest during the tax year, if two of the persons are the child's parent and they do not file a joint return together;
  • The parent with the highest adjusted gross income (AGI) if the child lived with each parent for the same amount of time during the tax years, and they do not file a joint return together;
  • The person with the highest AGI, if no parent can claim the child as a qualifying child; or
  • A person with the higher AGI than any parent who can claim the child as a qualifying child but does not.  


*Special rules aply for children of divorced or separate parents. See Publication 596, Earned Income Credit, on irs.gov for more information or Publication 596 SP, Crédito por Ingreso del Trabajo.



Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 05-Jan-2015