1. TurboTax /
  2. Tax Calculators & Tips /
  3. Tax Tips Guides & Videos /
  4. Family /
  5. 5 Tax Tips for Single Parents

5 Tax Tips for Single Parents

Updated for Tax Year 2018


OVERVIEW

Filing taxes as a single parent requires coordination between you and your ex-spouse or partner. Usually the custodial parent claims the child as a dependent, but there are exceptions. A single parent is allowed to claim applicable deductions and exemptions for each qualifying child. Even though you claim your child as a dependent, she may still have to file her own tax return if she has income, such as from an after-school job.


tax tips for single parents

Determine where the child lives

Usually the parent who has custody of the child claims the child on his or her tax return. However, there may be an exception. Where the child spends the majority of his time can be a factor as to which parent can claim the child on their tax return.

  • The IRS can disregard the divorce decree or separation agreement when it comes to custody.
  • When a child lives with one parent for more than half of the year, even if it's not the custodial parent, the IRS is likely to grant that parent the right to claim the child on the tax return.
  • The IRS considers where the child sleeps as a strong determining factor.

Filing as head of household

Choosing to file as head of household usually allows you a higher standard deduction and reduces your taxable income. To qualify for head of household, you must:

  • Pay more than 50% of the household expenses;
  • Be unmarried on the last day of the tax year, and;
  • Have your child live with you for more than six months of the year, except for being at school.

TurboTax can help you determine whether you qualify for head of household status.

The dependent exemption (for tax years prior to 2018)

The IRS allows an exemption for each of your qualifying children until they reach 19 years old, or 24 if a full-time student for at least 5 months of the year, or any age if they are permanently and totally disabled at any time during the year. This amount is subtracted from your adjusted gross income, helping to reduce the amount of tax you pay.

To claim the exemption, the child must be your daughter or son, stepchild, foster child or legally adopted child at the end of the tax year. You can’t claim the exemption, however, if the child provided more than half of her own support for the year.

For tax years after 2017, dependent exemptions are no longer available and have been replaced by a higher standard deduction and higher child tax credit (see below).

Claiming the child tax credit

For tax years prior to 2018, if you file as non-married head of household making less than $75,000 in the tax year, you might also be eligible to claim the child tax credit. This credit can decrease your taxes by $1,000 per qualifying child. If there is a remaining credit balance left over after subtracting the credit from your income taxes, you can get that back as a tax refund.

For tax years after 2017, the child tax credit is increased to $2,000 for qualifying children and you can make up to $200,000 as a single or head of household filer before the credit begins to be limited. Up to $1,300 of the credit is refundable even if you don't owe any tax.

To qualify for the credit, your child will need to meet six tests: age, relationship, support, dependent, citizenship, and residence.

Include the dependent care credit

The IRS allows single parents to claim a percentage of child care expenses paid that allow them to work outside the home or look for work with the Child and Dependent Care Credit. Child care expenses can be claimed for children 12 years and younger. The amount allowed is up to $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more children.

Only the custodial parent can claim the dependent care credit, even if the other parent claimed the dependent exemption. If the child turned 13 years old during the tax year, you may claim a credit only for the portion of the year that he was 12. When you use TurboTax to prepare your taxes, we’ll handle all of these calculations.

When both parents claim the same child

Divorced parents should communicate clearly in advance of tax season to establish who will claim the child or children. In the event of a dispute where the child’s overnights are split evenly between the parents, the IRS will award the dependent deduction to the parent with the higher AGI (adjusted gross income).

When both parents claim a child on an electronically filed tax return, the second return will be rejected (the one filed later) as the child’s social security number will have already been used on a return. If, however, you believe you have the right to claim the child (according to the dependent tax rules), you can dispute this.

Here are the steps:

  1. File a paper return instead of e-filing it. You can continue to prepare it online, but you will need to print it and mail it instead at the end.
  2. Include a letter explaining the situation, along with evidence (like school registration and medical records), proving that you have the right to claim the dependent(s).
  3. The IRS will review both returns, contact both of you by mail for further proof if necessary, and then decide which person can claim the dependent(s) based on current tax law.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $59.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • TURBOTAX ONLINE/MOBILE

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Absolute Zero $0 federal (forms 1040EZ/1040A) + $0 state limited time offer only available with TurboTax Free Edition; offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • QuickBooks Self-Employed Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed and TurboTax Live for Extension Filers: To receive your complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed through 10/31/19, you must pay for your 2017 TurboTax Self-Employed or TurboTax Live return between 4/18/18 and 10/15/18 and sign-in and access your QuickBooks Self-Employed account via mobile app or at https://selfemployed.intuit.com/turbotax at least twice by 12/31/18. You will have the option of renewing your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 10/31/19 for another year at the then-current subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section. See QuickBooks.com for price comparison. Offer not valid for existing QuickBooks Self-Employed subscribers already on a paid subscription.
  • Pays for itself (TurboTax Self-Employed): Estimates based on deductible business expenses calculated at the self-employment tax income rate (15.3%) for tax year 2017. Actual results will vary based on your tax situation.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • TurboTax Live Reviews: Displayed reviews are for the TurboTax Live standalone service from Tax Year 2017 and not for the new Turbo Tax product / TurboTax Live bundle available for Tax Year 2018.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: A $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Help and Support: Access to a TurboTax specialist is included with TurboTax Deluxe, Premier, Self-Employed and TurboTax Live; not included with Free Edition (but is available as an upgrade). TurboTax specialists are available to provide general customer help and support using the TurboTax product. SmartLook on-screen help is available on a PC, laptop or the TurboTax mobile app. Service, area of expertise, experience levels, wait times, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • Tax Advice, Expert Review and TurboTax Live: Access to tax advice and Expert Review (the ability to have a Tax Expert review and/or sign your tax return) is included with TurboTax Live or as an upgrade from another version, and available through October 15, 2018. These services are provided only by credentialed CPAs, EAs or tax attorneys. State tax advice is free. Some tax topics or situations may not be included as part of this service, which shall be determined in the tax expert’s sole discretion. In the event your return is reviewed by a tax expert and requires a significant level of tax advice or actual preparation, the tax expert may be required to sign your return as the preparer at which point they will assume primary responsibility for the preparation of your return. Expert Review [and TurboTax Live] not available on the TurboTax mobile app or when using a web browser on your mobile phone. On-screen help is available on a PC, laptop or the TurboTax mobile app. Service, area of expertise, experience levels, wait times, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • Tax Return Access and My Docs features: Included with TurboTax Deluxe, Premier, Self-Employed, TurboTax Live or with PLUS benefits. Access to all tax-related documents we have on file for you is available through 10/31/2019. Terms and conditions may vary and are subject to change without notice.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2016 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees.
  • #1 rated online tax prep provider: Based on independent comparison of the best online tax software by TopTenReviews.com March 13, 2017.
  • Get tips based on your tax and credit data to help get you to where you want to be: Tax and credit data accessed upon your consent.
  • The tax reform consulting promotion is a free offer subject to cancellation at any time without notice. The promotion is limited to one 15min consultation per person with a tax expert. The consult will be solely for the purpose of explaining the impacts of tax reform, the tax expert will not give advice or tax prep guidance on prior year taxes.
  • TURBOTAX GUARANTEES

  • 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee: If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, we’ll pay you the penalty and interest.
  • Maximum Refund Guarantee - or Your Money Back: If you get a larger refund or smaller tax due from another tax preparation method, we'll refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state purchase price paid. TurboTax Online Free Edition customers are entitled to payment of $14.99 and a refund of your state purchase price paid.
  • 100% Accurate, Expert Approved Guarantee: If you pay an IRS or state penalty (or interest) because of an error that a TurboTax CPA or EA made while signing your return, we’ll pay you the penalty and interest. We’ll also amend your return at no additional cost.
  • Audit Support Guarantee: If you received an audit letter based on your 2017 TurboTax return and are not satisfied with how we responded to your inquiry, we’ll refund the applicable TurboTax federal 1040 and/or state purchase price you paid. TurboTax Free Edition customers are entitled to payment of $14.99 and a refund of your state purchase price paid. We will not represent you or provide legal advice. Excludes TurboTax Business.
  • Satisfaction Guaranteed:
    • If you use TurboTax Online or Mobile: Satisfaction Guaranteed — or you don't pay. You may use TurboTax Online without charge up to the point you decide to print or electronically file your tax return. Printing or electronically filing your return reflects your satisfaction with TurboTax Online, at which time you will be required to pay or register for the product.
    • If you bought or downloaded TurboTax from a retailer: Try TurboTax software. If you're not satisfied, return it to Intuit within 60 days of purchase with your dated receipt for a full refund.
    • If you bought or downloaded TurboTax directly from us: Try TurboTax software. If you're not satisfied, return it within 60 days of shipment with your dated receipt for a full refund (excluding shipping & handling).
  • TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE

  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: A $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except TurboTax Business.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2017 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies; may require a free Intuit online account. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2016 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2014 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.