Choosing between the spousal amount and eligible dependant amount

Depending on your family situation and any changes to your marital status during the year, you might have to choose between claiming the spouse or common-law partner amount or the amount for an eligible dependant on your return. Unfortunately, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) doesn’t allow you to claim both for the same tax year.

What is the spouse or common-law amount and when can it be claimed?

You can claim the spouse or common-law amount if you supported your spouse or common-law partner at any time during the year and their net income was less than the basic personal amount ($11,809 in 2018). If you were living with your spouse on December 31, you’ll be able to use their net income for the entire year to calculate this amount.

Note: H&R Block’s tax software will calculate this amount for you when you prepare a coupled return.

If, however, you separated from your spouse during the year due to a breakdown in the relationship and didn’t get back together before December 31, you can only use the net income they earned up to the day of separation. If that’s the case, you’ll need to enter his or her net income into the designated field of your Schedule 2.

Note: You can find the Schedule 2 on the PREPARE tab under the REQUIRED icon:

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What is the amount for an eligible dependant?

You can claim the amount for an eligible dependant if at any time during the year, you met all of the following conditions at the same time:

  • You didn’t have a spouse or common-law partner or, if you did, you weren’t living with them, supporting them, or being supported by them
  • You supported a dependant in 2018 and
  • You lived with the dependant (in most cases, in Canada) in a home you maintained. You can’t claim this amount for a person that only visited you temporarily

In addition to meeting all of these conditions, the dependant you’re claiming must have been either:

  • Your parent or grandparent, either by blood, marriage, common-law partnership, or adoption or
  • Your child, grandchild, brother, or sister either by blood, marriage, common-law partnership, or adoption and under the age of 18 or suffered from a physical or mental impairment

Even if you meet all of the conditions listed above, you still might not be eligible to claim this amount on your return. For complete details, refer to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website

Note: If you got married or entered into a common-law relationship in 2018, only the person who was caring for the dependant before the changed in marital status can claim the eligible dependant amount on their return. 

Which amount should I claim?

Regardless of which amount you’re claiming, the claim amount will be reduced by the net income of the person you’re claiming the amount for. Knowing this, it might be more beneficial for you to claim the amount for an eligible dependant if your eligible dependant didn’t have any income during the year.

Note: If your spouse or eligible dependant suffers from a physical or mental impairment, you might also be eligible to claim the Canada caregiver credit.

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