Do I Qualify for Head of Household?
Head of Household is one of the filing status options taxpayers can use to file your taxes. Others are Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, and Qualified Widow(er). Filing status determines your standard deduction and the ability to claim other deductions, credits and exclusions.
Over recent years, legislation and the IRS have tightened the rules for who qualifies as Head of Household. Now the rules for both the taxpayer and the person they want to claim are more complex.
For Example: Taxpayer’s cannot qualify for Head of Household by calling a person their dependent only because he or she lived with the taxpayer for the year, or because the taxpayer may claim him or her as a dependent because of a multiple support agreement.
The interview questions in TurboTax will guide you in determining if you may qualify for Head of Household. The first time through the Personal Info screens you’ll enter your info and add the qualifying person (in the dependent screens), then after the Live in Another State screens, you should reach the “We’ve Chosen a Filing Status for You” screen.
If everything you entered meets the qualifications, it should show we recommend the Head of Household status. If you think this is wrong, step back through the questions on each screens to be sure you answered them correctly. To review your selections, see How to Check My Head of Household Status?
Here we explain the basic rules to qualify as head of household for tax purposes, so you know what to expect. However, for the last word (the fine print), we all must rely on the IRS rules such as found in their Publication 501 – Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, under Filing Requirements. Also refer to the sections on exemptions and dependents.
Qualifying to file as Head of Household
Filing as Head of Household may provide additional tax benefits for single U.S. citizens or resident aliens caring for a child or other related persons such as parents. Unmarried persons may be able to file as Head of Household if you meet all of the following requirements:
- You are unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year and file a separate tax return.
- A spouse did not live in the home during the last 6 months of the year.
- You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
- The child or dependent lived with you — see the next section, Who is a qualifying person?.
If you are separated or divorced, your spouse cannot have lived in your home during the last 6 months of the year. And if you were married for part of the year and live in a community property state, special rules may apply in determining your income and expenses for the support requirement. Refer to IRS Publication 555 – Community Property.
Who is a qualifying person?
For Head of Household, a qualifying person must either be a qualifying child, parent, or relative. If the person you want to use as a qualifying person does not meet any of the requirements here, they do not qualify and cannot be used by you to file as Head of Household. Again, if you want further details, see IRS Publication 501 – Exemptions and Standard Deductions, and Filing Information.
To be a qualifying person for head of Household, the person must be –
A Qualifying Child
To be your qualifying child, the person is:
- Your son, daughter, or grandchild who lived with you more than half of the year.
- Your child age 18 or under or be age 24 or under and a full time student at the end of the year, or be disabled.
- Single, or is married and you can claim an exemption for them.
There is an exception to the living requirement for children subject to divorce or separation agreements. If you are a noncustodial parent, you may be given an exemption for a child under a divorce or separation agreement, but the exemption alone does not qualify you for Head of Household filing status. For custodial parents, the child would qualify you for Head of Household even if the child's exemption is awarded to another parent.
A Qualifying Parent (Relative)
You qualifying parent must be your mother or father who you claim an exemption for on your tax return. This most often means their income is limited. For 2012 they must have gross income of less than $3,800, but remember, Social Security generally doesn’t count as part of gross income. There is special rule for this parent if they live in a rest home or home for the elderly which is their main home. Paying more than half of keeping their residence (main home) for the year could still qualify you as Head of Household.
A Qualifying Relative (related to you)
Your qualifying relative is a grandparent, brother, sister, nephew, niece, grandson, granddaughter, uncle, or aunt, who:
- Lived with you more than half of the year and
- You can claim them as an exemption.
There is no age test. Qualifying relative can include children who do not meet the qualifying children test. A dependent child who lives in Mexico or Canada may qualify, see Table 4 in IRS Publication 501.
Nonresident children in other countries do not qualify as a dependent. Other tax situations have a member of household test; these persons do not qualify you for Head of Household status.
Cost of keeping your home
You must pay more than half of the cost of keeping up a home for the year to qualify for Head of Household filing status.
If you are not the only one contributing to the support of the qualifying person, list and total the amounts you paid and what others paid to be sure your contribution are more than half of the total. If two people each contribute 50% to a child's support, neither person contributes more than half and neither person meets the support rule.
Some of the costs you can include when figuring a qualifying child's support are:
- Property taxes
- Mortgage interest or rent expenses
- Property insurance
- Utility charges
- Repairs and maintenance
- Food consumed at the home
- Other household expenses
Costs cannot include any public assistance payments or the costs of clothing, medical treatment, life insurance, or transportation. Unpaid costs, such as the rental value of your home or the value of services someone provides also do not count.
Other qualifying issues
In some situations, a qualifying person may be absent from your home:
- If your qualifying person is temporarily absent due to illness, education, business, vacation or military service, they should still qualify. The absence must reasonably be considered temporary and the person expects to return to your home.
- A person who is born or dies during the year may qualify you if the person meets all other requirements,
- You must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home that was their main home for half the year, or more than half the costs for the period while they lived.
Some states use the federal filing status definition for Head of Household, while some states have their own separate status categories and definitions. Again, TurboTax will guide you. If you aren’t sure about unusual situations, check with your state tax department.
Resident aliens may be considered unmarried if their spouse is a nonresident alien and certain tax related selections are made. Nonresident aliens cannot use the Head of Household filing status, but if their spouse is a U.S. citizen or resident alien, the spouse may still qualify. However, a nonresident spouse is not a qualifying person for Head of Household purposes. See Chapters 1 and 5, Filing Status section ofIRS Publication 519 – Tax Guide for Aliens.