From dependent credit to filing jointly, WalletPop experts take on your questions

tax help
tax help

The tax code is over 18,000 pages long. And it's so complex that even Wall Street wizs like Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner make mistakes on their tax returns. WalletPop's experts are on hand to help answer your questions and correct mistakes before it's time to file.

Question:
I have been filing single with one dependent. I make less than $17,000 a year. My daughter is single, 19 years old and graduated high school May of 2009. She has worked and probably made less than $10,000 last year. I really need to claim her on my taxes if I can. She lived with me for over six months last year. I am getting conflicting advice. Some say that I can claim her all year and she can claim zero on her taxes. Some say that I can only claim her for six months, but I am not sure how that works -- how does she claim herself on her taxes?
--Elizabeth Weber, 43, Marana, AZ


Answer from Ralph Hymans, CPA based in Charleston, SC
With the facts presented, you should file your return as the head of household with one dependent. Your daughter must file her own return as a single because of her income in 2009, and she cannot take an individual deduction for herself.

You are allowed to do this because she is a dependent; your daughter is under the age of 19. Filing as head of household gives you your greatest tax benefit. The fact that your daughter lived with you for less than 12 months in 2009 is not relevant to the issue. The key issues are your daughter's status as single and her age of 19.