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To claim an exemption for a dependent, you must use IRS Form 1040A or the long Form 1040. You must write each dependent's first and last name and Social Security number on either form, and also write in the dependent's closest relationship to you (or your spouse, if filing jointly).
Then, you must total up your dependents in three categories: children who live with you, children who don't live with you because of divorce or separation, and other dependents. The total number of exemptions (including one for yourself and, if applicable, your spouse) is entered on Line 6d of either form.
Social Security number required. You must list a Social Security number on your tax return for each dependent, even if the dependent was born late in 2011. Otherwise, your dependency deduction may be denied.
If you don't have a number for one of your dependents and don't expect to get it before the filing deadline, usually April 15th, file an extension request on IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, so that you have an extra six months in which to obtain a number. In the meantime, you or your dependent should get a number from the Social Security Administration by filing Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, as soon as possible. Contact your local SSA office for more information.
If you are adopting a child who has been placed with you by an authorized agency, you may be able to claim an exemption for the child. If you don't know the child's Social Security number you can get an adoption taxpayer identification number from the IRS by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions. You can go to www.irs.gov or call the IRS at 1-800-TAX-FORM to get a copy of this form.
Similarly, if your dependent is a resident or nonresident alien, you will need to get a special identification number from the IRS by filing Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.