If you're a single mom filing your taxes, make use of tax credits and deductions that can help reduce your taxable income and reduce the amount of tax you pay. A number of strategies, credits and deductions can be used to reduce taxable income, and in some cases, allow tax refunds even if you didn't pay in any taxes. When you use TurboTax, we'll ask simple questions and handle these calculations for you.
The article below is accurate for your 2017 taxes, the one that you file this year by the April 2018 deadline, including a few retroactive changes due to the passing of tax reform. Some tax information below will change next year for your 2018 taxes, but won’t impact you this year. Learn more about tax reform here.
File as head of household
Filing as head of household usually gives you a lower tax rate than if you file as single or married filing separately. It also allows a higher standard deduction. To qualify for head of household status, you must be unmarried on the last day of the tax year. You also must contribute more than 50 percent toward the financial support of your home, and your children must live with you for more than six months of the year. TurboTax can help you determine if you qualify for head of household status.
Establish qualifying dependents
There are conditions that determine if you can claim your child as a dependent. The Internal Revenue Service uses the custodial residency test, in most cases, to determine if you can claim your child as a dependent. However, if there’s a non-custodial father, the IRS can grant him the right to claim your child as a dependent if all these conditions apply:
- You and your child’s father, whether married or not, lived apart for the last six months or are legally divorced or separated.
- The child received at least half of his support from the parents for at least half of the year.
- You and/or the child's father have legal custody of him.
- Either you provide a written waiver to not claim the child as your dependent or a pre-1984 legal agreement exists that allows the non-custodial father to claim the child as a dependent.
Claim the dependent exemption
The IRS allows a tax exemption to reduce the burden of caring for a child. “This can be a big plus for single moms,” advises Bill Symons, president of Computer Accounting Systems in Oswego, N.Y. “Claiming an exemption for each child can greatly reduce a single mom’s taxable income and in some cases, depending on her tax bracket, give her a bigger tax refund.” However, once a single mother’s adjusted gross income exceeds a certain amount, the deduction is phased out.
Include the child tax credit
A single mom filing as head of household and making less than $75,000 as of publication, can claim a $1,000 child tax credit for each child. This amount comes off your tax bill. If you owe less than the child tax credit, you’ll receive the balance as a refund. To qualify, the child must:
- Be 16 years old or younger and be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, grandchild, niece, nephew or a legally adopted child
- Have lived with you for more than six months
- Be a United States citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien
- Be your dependent
- Have received more than half of their support from you
Deduct childcare expenses
If your dependent child is 12 years old or younger, and you pay for daycare while you work or look for work, you may be eligible for a childcare tax credit. To qualify you must have an income, be a full-time student, or be physically or mentally unable to care for yourself. The care provider must be older than 19 years of age, can’t be a parent of the qualifying child, and must be identified on your return. Depending on your income, the credit can be up to 35 percent of childcare costs. Any contributions to childcare expenses from an employer must be deducted from the total expense.
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