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Head of Household Tax Filing Status

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Head of Household federal tax filing status is reserved for unmarried people who care for dependents. It is required that you provided at least half of the funds necessary to maintain the home and well-being of these people in order for them to qualify you as head of household.

People who are able to use this filing status get lower taxes and larger deductions than people who must file single. It is important you closely read the criteria for being able to declare yourself head of household.

  • On the last day of the previous tax year, you were unmarried or considered unmarried by the federal government.
  • More than half of the cost of maintaining a home fell on your shoulders.
  • At least one qualifying dependent lived with you in that home for more than six months.

It is possible that you still qualify without meeting the residency requirement listed above. Check IRS publication 501 for more information.

The first criteria of being able to file as head of household is that you are unmarried. This not only means you have never been married but also that you have been married in the past and are no longer in that legal relationship. This could be the cause of legal separation or divorce.

State laws determine the marital status of each Federal tax filer, except when it comes to same sex couples and people in civil unions and domestic partnerships. While people in these types of relationships would have to file as single in the past, new rulings about same sex marriage may have changed these guidelines. Always check the IRS web site for any updated information.

There is a way a married person can be considered unmarried in order to file as head of household. Even if the couple is not legally separated, if they have lived in a separate residence for more than the last six months of the previous tax year, they qualify. The criteria for having a dependent, either a child, step a child or foster child, still exists. The taxpayer would also have to pay for more than half of the upkeep on this home.

A married person who fulfills all the above criteria can file as head of household instead of married filing separately. This makes them eligible for greater tax deductions, such as higher education credits, dependent care credits and earned income tax credit. They can take the standard deduction or use itemize deductions even if their legal spouse is filing in another way.

Who Is a Qualifying Person?

To be eligible to file as head of household, you need a qualifying person living with you for more than 6 months. The person living with you does not have to be a dependent, but does have to fulfill one of the roles listed below:

  • Child – step, adopted, foster, sibling or a descendent of any dependents.
  • A parent who can be claimed as a dependent under qualifying relative rules.
  • Sibling, niece, nephew or grandparent who can be likewise claimed as a dependent.

While residency rules do not apply while determining who is a dependent, they do matter for filing head of household on your federal taxes. The person must live with you for at least 6 months of the previous tax year. If they did not, you may not qualify for head of household status.

Test for Support

Head of household requires that you pay for more than half of home upkeep. This includes mortgage payments, rent, taxes, insurance, utility bills, repairs and maintenance and groceries. Money paid for clothing, transportation, education, medical care, life insurance and vacations are not eligible. A handy worksheet in Publication 501 can help you determine if you qualify.

Test for Residency

While the qualifying person must live with you for more than half of the previous tax year, there are some exceptions. These temporary absences are OK if they are due to education, military service, extended vacations, business trips or illness. The assumption that the person will return to the household after their absence is necessary.

This extra requirement does not exist if the qualifying person is a parent. If you provide more than half the financial upkeep for an elderly parent, they do not have to reside with you and no expectation of moving in with you later is necessary. This allows people to qualify if they are providing for an elderly parent in a nursing home or other care.

Remember, when you file with TurboTax Online, we’ll ask you simple questions about your situation and recommend the filing status, credits and deductions that will get you the biggest refund.