Are You Qualified for “Head of Household” Tax Filing Status?

Head of Household Tax Filing Status

Are You Qualified for “Head of Household” Tax Filing Status?

One of the following filing statuses must be checked when you file your tax return: 

  • Single
  • Married filing jointly
  • Married filing separately
  • Head of household
  • Qualifying widow(er) 

Filing a return as a head of household is more favorable than filing as single—but who qualifies to select this option?

In order to qualify, an individual must maintain a household which is the principal home of a “qualifying child” or other relative whom they can claim as a dependent—and this dependent must reside in the home as their principal residence for more than half the year (unless the taxpayer only qualifies due to the multiple support rules).

Does your child qualify?

In order to qualify, a child must:

  • Live in your home for more than half the year
  • Be your child, adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, stepsibling, or a descendant of any of the above
  • Be under the age of nineteen—or a student under the age of 24
  • Not provide over half of their own support for the year

The child of divorced parents will qualify if they meet these tests for the custodial parent—even if the custodial parent released their right to the child’s dependency exemption to the noncustodial parent.

If an individual is married or can’t be claimed as a dependent due to filing jointly or not being a U.S. citizen or resident, they can’t be considered a “qualifying child.” If an individual can be a qualifying child of—and is claimed as such by—more than one taxpayer, special “tie-breaking” rules apply.

Qualifications for “maintaining a household”

In order to be considered to “maintain a household,” you must live in a home and pay over half the cost of running it for the tax year. House-related expenses paid for the mutual benefit of household members—such as rent, utilities, property taxes, mortgage interest, property insurance, repairs and upkeep, and food consumed in the home—should be included in measuring the cost. Items such as medical care, life insurance, education, clothing, and transportation should not be included.

Head of household status and dependant parents

You can also qualify for head of household status if you maintain a home for one of your parents—even if you don’t live with that parent—under a special rule. However, you must be able to claim the parent as your dependent in order to qualify under this rule.

Head of household qualification and marital status

In order to claim head of household status, you must be unmarried. 

If you’re married, you’ll need to file as either married filing jointly or married filing separately—and not as head of household. However, you can still qualify as head of household if:

  • You’ve lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the tax year 
  • Your dependent child, adopted child, stepchild, or foster child lives with you 
  • You “maintain” the household

In this case, you’re treated as unmarried for the purposes of choosing a filing status.

Those who are unmarried because they’re widowed can’t file as head of household, but can use the married filing jointly rates as a “surviving spouse” for two years after the year of their spouse’s death, so long as their dependent child, adopted child, stepchild, or foster child lives with them and they “maintain” the household. This option is of interest because joint rates are more favorable than the rates for those filing as head of household.

Contact us today

If you’d like to discuss a particular situation or you need additional information about who qualifies as a dependent, contact us today—we’d be happy to answer your questions.