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Guide to Filing Taxes as Head of Household

Written by Riley Adams, CPA • Reviewed by a TurboTax CPAUpdated for Tax Year 2023 • February 16, 2024 2:54 PM
OVERVIEW

The Head of Household Filing Status typically allows for a more generous tax situation to unmarried taxpayers who maintain a home for a qualifying person, such as a child or family relative.

 

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Key Takeaways

  • The Head of Household filing status offers more generous tax brackets and a higher standard deduction than filing as single. This can apply when you maintain a home for a qualifying person.
  • Qualifying persons can include a child or other dependent who meets certain eligibility criteria.
  • To qualify for Head of Household filing status, you have to pay more than half of the cost of keeping up a household. You also have to be considered unmarried on the last day of the year.
  • Head of Household have higher income limits for qualifying for certain tax credits.

What is the Head of Household filing status?

Head of Household filers typically claim a larger standard deduction than taxpayers filing as Single or Married Filing Separately. As a result, Head of Household filers often have lower tax rates. To qualify as Head of Household, a person has to file an individual tax return, be considered unmarried, not be claimed on someone else's tax return, and be able to claim a qualifying dependent on your return.


 

TurboTax Tip:

To qualify for the Head of Household filing status, you have to be considered unmarried. You also must be able to claim a qualifying dependent on your tax return. Finally, you cannot be claimed on someone else’s tax return.

 

What are the advantages to filing as Head of Household?

The Head of Household filing status provides two primary benefits to you:

  • Higher standard deduction
  • More taxable income falling into lower tax brackets

 

Benefit Head of Household Single Married Filing Separately
Higher standard deduction (2023) $20,800 standard deduction $13,850 standard deduction $13,850 standard deduction
More taxable income falling into lower tax brackets Taxable income from $15,701 up to $59,850 before moving into the 22% tax bracket. Taxable income from $11,001 up to $44,725 before moving into the 22% tax bracket. Taxable income from $11,001 up to $44,725 before moving into the 22% tax bracket.

Who is able to file as a Head of Household?

To qualify, you have to meet certain criteria. To file as Head of Household, you have to:

  • Pay for more than half of the expenses for a qualifying household
  • Be considered unmarried on the last day of the tax year
  • Have a qualifying child or dependent

This tax filing status includes single parents. It also includes divorced or legally separated parents with custody of a child. You can also be an adult who provides support for a parent or other relative under qualifying circumstances.

What is required for maintaining a household?

The first Head of Household filing requirement is that you pay for more than half of the cost of maintaining a qualifying household. This portion must be for the entire tax year. Qualifying payments include more than half of the total household bills. These bills include rent or mortgage, utility bills, and insurance. They also include property taxes, groceries, repairs and other common household expenses. In the case of a parent, your parent doesn’t need to live with you. However, you have to pay at least half the cost of their living arrangements.

Receiving financial help from a parent or other individual does not disqualify you as Head of Household. This is true as long as you're paying for more than 50 percent of the bills with your own income or savings.

What does “considered unmarried” mean for Head of Household filing status?

The IRS also requires Head of Household filers to be "considered unmarried" as of the last day of the tax year. To be considered unmarried means:

  • You file a separate return
  • You paid more than half of the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year
  • Your spouse did not live in the home during the last 6 months of the tax year
  • Your home was the main home for your child, stepchild, or foster child for at least 6 months of the tax year
  • You are able to claim the child as a dependent unless the only reason that you can't claim the child is because the noncustodial parent can claim the child under certain rules

The IRS considers you married for the tax year if you and your spouse lived separately due to a temporary circumstance. Temporary separations include military service, business trips, and college attendance.

What is a qualifying child?

The eligibility of a qualifying child or dependent extends beyond just your own son or daughter. To be considered a qualifying child, the child has to meet the criteria in each of the following categories:

  • The child is your biological or adopted child, stepchild, or foster child. The qualifying child also may be a sibling, step sibling, or half sibling. A qualifying child can also be a descendant of one of these relatives (child, grandchild, great grandchild, etc.).
  • The child lived within your home for more than six months during the tax year
  • The child needs to be younger than you
  • As of the end of the tax year, the child is under 19 if he is not a student, or under 24 if he is a full-time college student
  • The child did not pay for more than half of their living expenses during the tax year

In some cases, you may be eligible to file as Head of Household even if you are unable to claim your child as a dependent. If you're divorced or separated and the child lived in your home for more than half of the year, you typically can file as Head of Household. This is true even if the divorce or separation agreement gives the other parent the right to claim the child as a dependent.

What is a qualifying dependent?

You may still qualify to file as Head of Household even if your dependent does not meet the criteria to be a qualifying child. Other relatives can be considered qualifying dependents for the Head of Household filing status. However, you have to provide more than half of the cost of maintaining the home. They also must have lived with you for more than half of the year:

  • Your biological or adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, step sibling, half sibling or a descendant (child, grandchild, great grandchild, etc.) of one of these relatives who is permanently and totally disabled, even if the relative does not meet the age requirements to be a qualifying child
  • Your parent
  • Your stepparent, niece, nephew, a sibling of one of your parents, or your son-in-law, daughter-in-law, parent-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law

Even if your qualifying parent did not live with you for more than half of the tax year, you may still qualify to file as Head of Household. You may be eligible if you paid for more than half the cost of maintaining a home as your parent's main home throughout the entire tax year. This can also include a care facility where they lived during the year. You also have to be able to claim them as a dependent.

How does the Head of Household status compare to other filing statuses?

Head of Household filing status has a more favorable standard deduction amount and lower tax brackets than filing Single or Married Filing Separately. But it is not as favorable as Married Filing Jointly.

Head of Household vs Single

Head of Household filers can have a lower taxable income than single filers. They also can have greater potential refunds. The Head of Household filing status can claim a significantly larger standard deduction than those filing as Single ($20,800 vs $13,850 for 2023). Those filing as Head of Household can also use wider tax brackets that allows more of their taxable income to fall into lower tax brackets.

Head of Household vs Married Filing Jointly

Joint filers receive better standard deduction amounts as well as wider tax brackets than those filing as Head of Household. Joint filers have a standard deduction twice as large as single filers. Their standard deduction is roughly 33% larger than Head of Household filing status ($27,700 vs. $20,800 for 2023).

What are the tax brackets for the Head of Household filing status?

Head of Household filers have more generous tax brackets than Single or Married Filing Separately filers. To see the 2023 Head of Household tax brackets and rates, use a Tax Bracket Calculator. You may also compare tax bracket information by year.

What is the standard deduction when filing as Head of Household?

The standard deduction for Head of Household is $20,800 for 2023. This is greater than the Single or Married Filing Separately filing statuses, but less than Married Filing Jointly.

Can two people file Head of Household on their return?

Two people cannot file as Head of Household on the same return. If they are married, then they typically have to either file as Married Filing Jointly on the same return or as Married Filing Separately on separate returns.

Two people can both claim Head of Household filing status while living in the same home. However, both need to meet the criteria necessary to be eligible for Head of Household status:

  • You both are unmarried.
  • You both are able to claim your own qualifying dependent.
  • That dependent resides at the same residence for more than half the year. (In the case of a parent, they can live elsewhere. However, you still have to provide them with at least half of their support.)
  • They both have to pay more than half of the cost of keeping up the portion of the home for themselves and their dependent(s).

Can I claim my boyfriend/girlfriend as a dependent and Head of Household?

You can't use the Head of Household filing status with a boyfriend/girlfriend because this person is not related to you in the required ways.

Learn more about the rules of whether you can claim a boyfriend/girlfriend as a dependent on your income taxes.

Can you claim Head of Household and not claim a dependent?

Generally, you need to have a qualifying child or dependent claimed on your return as a dependent to file using the Head of Household status. However, if you are a custodial parent, you may be eligible to file using the Head of Household filing status. This can occur if you can't claim the child as a dependent only because the non-custodial parent can claim the child when meeting these rules:

  1. You’re unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year
  2. The child received over half of their support from the parents
  3. The child is in the custody of one or both parents for more than half of the year
  4. You sign a written declaration that you won't claim the child as a dependent for the year and the non-custodial parent includes it with their tax return

How Head of Household filing status helps

Head of Household status enables you to claim a larger standard deduction than when filing as Single. This usually allows you to pay less in taxes.

Filing as Head of Household can place you in a lower tax bracket than you might be under the Single or Married Filing Separately filing statuses.

This filing status looks to help people with qualifying dependents keep more of their money. They can use this money to pay for the added cost of maintaining a home for a qualifying person.

You may face different requirements for your state-level tax filing status.

If you need help determining your filing status, you can visit the IRS filing status tool to learn more.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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  • Audit Support Guarantee – Individual Returns: If you receive an audit letter from the IRS or State Department of Revenue based on your 2023 TurboTax individual tax return, we will provide one-on-one question-and-answer support with a tax professional, if requested through our Audit Report Center, for audited individual returns filed with TurboTax Desktop for the current 2023 tax year and, for individual, non-business returns, for the past two tax years (2021, 2022). Audit support is informational only. We will not represent you before the IRS or state tax authority or provide legal advice. If we are not able to connect you to one of our tax professionals, we will refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state license purchase price you paid. This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax Desktop. Excludes TurboTax Desktop Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Satisfaction Guarantee/ 60-Day Money Back Guarantee: If you're not completely satisfied with TurboTax Desktop, go to refundrequest.intuit.com within 60 days of purchase and follow the process listed to submit a refund request. You must return this product using your license code or order number and dated receipt.

TurboTax Desktop Business Returns:

  • 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee – Business Returns: If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, we’ll pay you the penalty and interest. Excludes payment plans. You are responsible for paying any additional tax liability you may owe. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Maximum Tax Savings Guarantee – Business Returns: If you get a smaller tax due (or larger business tax refund) from another tax preparation method using the same data, TurboTax will refund the applicable TurboTax Business Desktop license purchase price you paid. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Satisfaction Guarantee/ 60-Day Money Back Guarantee: If you're not completely satisfied with TurboTax Desktop, go to refundrequest.intuit.com within 60 days of purchase and follow the process listed to submit a refund request. You must return this product using your license code or order number and dated receipt.

TURBOTAX DESKTOP

  • Installation Requirements: Product download, installation and activation requires an Intuit Account and internet connection. Product limited to one account per license code. You must accept the TurboTax License Agreement to use this product. Not for use by paid preparers.

  • TurboTax Desktop 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 may apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees may not apply in certain states, check here for details. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase. Software updates and optional online features require internet connectivity.

  • Fastest Refund Possible: Fastest federal tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary. The IRS issues more than 9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.

  • Average Refund Amount: Sum of $3140 is the average refund American taxpayers received based upon IRS data date ending 02/17/23 and may not reflect actual refund amount received.

  • TurboTax Product Support: Customer service and product support hours and options vary by time of year.

  • #1 Best Selling Tax Software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2022 TurboTax products.

  • Deduct From Your Federal or State Refund (if applicable): A $40 Refund Processing Service fee may apply to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.

  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies; Requires Intuit Account. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2021 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2021 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Desktop Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.

  • Audit Defense: Audit Defense is a third-party add-on service provided, for a fee, by TaxResources, Inc., dba Tax Audit. See Membership Agreements at https://turbotax.intuit.com/corp/softwarelicense/ for service terms and conditions.

All features, services, support, prices, offers, terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

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