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How To Answer the “Did You Support Yourself?” Tax Question

Ruchi Gupta - Author
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Feb. 4 2022, Published 8:50 a.m. ET

While staying within IRS rules, most people try to minimize their tax liability or maximize their tax refund. You can achieve this by claiming tax deductions and credits in your tax return. However, some people get stuck on the question "Did you support yourself?" Here's the tax filing item, explained.

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Your taxable income determines your tax bill. Therefore, if you reduce your taxable income, you can also lower your bill. Claiming deductions and credits is a popular way to reduce taxable income. Taking advantage of deductions and credits can not only reduce your IRS bill but also increase your tax refund. And with a big refund, you’ll have extra money to spend on living expenses, invest in stocks and crypto, fund a retirement savings account, or pay your student loan debt.

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How to reduce your tax bill with deductions and credits

In tax returns, deductions are expenses you can subtract from your income, reducing the taxable amount and how much tax you pay. Common deductions include donations to charities, contributions to 401(k) plans, and out-of-pocket medical bills. You can also deduct interest on mortgage and education loans.

Meanwhile, credits offset your tax liability. For example, if your tax bill is $3,000 and you have a $1,000 tax credit, your net bill would drop to $2,000. Tax credits may be tied to things like education, child adoption, or income level.

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The "Did you support yourself?" tax question, explained

As you complete your return using tax software, you may be asked if you supported yourself. Basically, the question serves to determine if you might be eligible for a tax break. One such break is the American Opportunity education tax credit, which writes off up to $2,500 from your tax bill.

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And even better, you can get a refund for amounts that exceed your bill. If you covered more than half of your living expenses with money you earned from work, you’re considered to have supported yourself. However, you’re considered to have not supported yourself if you paid for most of your expenses with student loans or unearned income, or someone (such as your parents) covered more than half of your expenses.

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Personal exemptions and the "Did you support yourself?" question

In the past, the "Did you support yourself?" question was mostly used to determine eligibility for a personal exemption tax deduction. But that exemption was removed in 2017, and the IRS expanded the standard deductions instead. Before then, you could reduce your taxable income by $4,000 if you paid for most of your living expenses. You could also claim the deduction for a spouse or dependents whose expenses you covered.

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