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Do you qualify as the “head of household” for filing purposes?

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Mother sitting at computer, child in background

An individual’s filing status determines the rate they are taxed and their allowable standard deduction. The head of household filing status, generally, allows for a lower tax rate and a higher standard deduction over single tax filers.

Head of household may be beneficial to individuals who meet the following qualifications:

  • Unmarried or considered unmarried (legally separated) the last day of tax year
  • Can claim a “qualifying child”, or other relative being claimed as a dependent
  • Maintains a household, which is the primary home of the “qualifying child”

Qualifying child defined

A child is considered qualifying if he or she:

  • Lives in your home for more than half the year,
  • Is your child, stepchild, adopted child, foster child, sibling, stepsibling (or a descendant of any of these),
  • Is under age 19 (or a student under 24), and
  • You provide more than half of their support during the year

If a child’s parents are divorced, the child will qualify if he/she meets these tests for the custodial parent — even if that parent released his or her right to a dependency exemption for the child to the noncustodial parent.

The qualifying child must be a U.S Citizen and resident. They must also be unmarried and qualify as a dependent. Special “tie-breaking” rules apply if the individual can be a qualifying child of (and is claimed as such) by more than one taxpayer.

Meeting the household test 

To have a qualifying household, you must pay more than one-half the costs to maintain the home. These house-related expenses may include property taxes, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, insurance, maintenance, and food consumed in the home. Costs that are NOT qualifying include, medical care, clothing, education, life insurance, or transportation expenses.

Claiming your parent 

Under a special rule, you can qualify as head of household if you maintain a home for a parent, even if you do not live with the parent. To qualify, you must be able to claim the parent as your dependent.

Marital status

You must be unmarried to claim head of household status. If you are a widow, you can use the married filing jointly rates as a “surviving spouse” for two years after the year of your spouse’s death (if your dependent child, stepchild, adopted child, or foster child lives with you and you “maintain” the household.) The joint rates are more favorable than the head of household rates.

If you have lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the year and your dependent child, stepchild, adopted child, or foster child lives with you and you “maintain” the household, you’re treated as unmarried. If this is the case, you can qualify as head of household. Please reach out if you have any questions about claiming dependents or if you would like more information about the head of household filing status and its qualifications.

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