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Now in this case, it was pretty much just crossed wires(and a couple of 1040Xs to be done) but it made me wonder - what happens when someone already claimed the dependent or the person claimed themself ?

If the parties don't get it resolved themselves through amended returns, the IRS will sort it out for them, inquiring of all for the pertinent facts and proof. When they become aware of the problem, if the earlier filing was incorrect the later filer should just go ahead and file on paper, since it's probably not going to get resolved in time for an electronic filing.

Phil
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