Products & Pricing
Online products
CD/download products
Mobile products
Self-employment taxes
Small business taxes
Compare products
TurboTax Advantage
Previous years' products
File an IRS extension
Access my downloads
Tools & Tips
Tax calculators
Tax tips & videos
Track my donations
TurboTax blog
After You File
Track my refund
Check my e-file status
Print my return
Amend my return
Access prior year returns
Go to Turbo
TurboTax Support
Frequently Asked Questions
Expert Services
How TurboTax works
Tax Reform

Tax Tips for Single Dads

Updated for Tax Year 2018


Only 1% of households were headed by single fathers back in 1960. By the time of the most recent Pew Research Center study in 2013, that number had jumped to 8%. If you’re in this growing group, read on. Tax law is gender neutral, so whether you’re a single father or a single mother, the same rules apply when you file your tax return if you’re raising a family on your own.

Are your kids your dependents?

The Internal Revenue Service does not allow both parents to claim their kids as dependents. If you have a custody agreement or divorce decree, the IRS generally gives the dependent deduction to the custodial parent named there, but this isn’t an ironclad rule. A custodial parent can give permission for the non-custodial parent to claim the child by filing Form 8332.

Technically, the IRS allows the parent with whom a child spends the majority of the year - six months or more - to claim a child as a dependent. The IRS gauges time by the number of overnight stays a child spends with each parent.

  • So even if your son is with you all day, if he goes to his other parent’s house to sleep, then you are not the custodial parent for that day.
  • If he spends six months plus one day worth of overnights with you, you can likely claim him as your dependent.

Circumstances can change after a custody agreement goes into effect, but the changes are not always reflected in the paperwork.

Example: The custody agreement says that your son stays with you two nights a week, but that went into effect five years ago. Now he’s 14 and wants to spend more time with his other parent.

Regardless of the agreement, he’s spending more nights at your house. If these overnights add up to six months plus one day, you can generally take the dependent tax deduction, regardless of the terms of the agreement or decree.

The IRS looks to the reality of the situation, not to the document. For this reason, it is important to keep careful documentation of exactly how many days your child sleeps at your house. This is also true if you were awarded custody. You cannot assume custody automatically guarantees the ability to claim a dependent.

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 ability to claim the dependent 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.

The right tax filing status

Supporting and housing your kids affects not just having a dependent on your tax return, but your filing status, too. If you’re unmarried and without dependents, you’re a single filer. But if you’re supporting your kids, you may qualify as head of household, which offers some additional tax perks, such as a larger standard deduction and more generous tax brackets.

You probably qualify as head of household if:

  • You’re unmarried on the last day of the tax year
  • You can claim at least one of your children as a dependent because they lived with you more than half the year
  • You financially provide at least 51% of the costs of supporting your household

If you filed for divorce and it isn’t final yet, you might still qualify if you didn’t live with your spouse after May 31, as long as you meet all the other rules.

You may be eligible for tax credits

Claiming your kids as dependents also allows you to claim certain tax credits. Credits are generally more beneficial than deductions because they directly reduce the amount of tax you owe to the IRS after you’ve calculated your tax liability, rather than just lowering your taxable income the way deductions do.

If you qualify as head of household, and your adjusted gross income is less than $200,000 as of the 2018 tax year, you can shave as much as $2,000 off your tax bill for each dependent child by claiming the Child Tax Credit. However, for each $1,000 of income above the $200,000 threshold, your available child tax credit is reduced by $50.

You also can claim a credit for some of what you pay for child care services for your kids under age 13, if you pay someone to take care of them while you are working. You might also be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit if you meet income guidelines.

Remember, with TurboTax, we’ll ask you simple questions and fill out the right tax forms for you to maximize your credits and tax deductions.

A TurboTax solution for every situation

See which tax prep product is right for you

Looking for more information?

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.

Security is built into everything we do
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures

  • 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 (1040EZ/1040A) + $0 state offer only available with TurboTax Federal 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 expected in March. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • QuickBooks Self-Employed Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: File your 2016 TurboTax Self-Employed return between 4/19/17 and 10/16/17 to receive your complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 10/31/18. Activation by 12/31/17 required. Sign in to QuickBooks Self-Employed via mobile app or at; e-mail address used for activation and sign-in. Offer valid only for new QuickBooks Self-Employed customers. See for price comparison.
    • When you use TurboTax Self-Employed to file your 2017 taxes, you will have the option to renew your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription. If you do not purchase TurboTax Self-Employed by 10/15/18, you will have the option of renewing your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 10/31/18 for another year at the then-current annual subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section.
  • 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 2016. Actual results will vary based on your tax situation.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and 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.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $34.99 Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Expert Help, Tax Advice and SmartLook: Included with Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed (via phone or on-screen); not included with Federal Free Edition (but available for purchase with the Plus bundle). SmartLook on-screen help is available on a PC, laptop or the TurboTax mobile app. TurboTax experts provide general advice, customer service and product help; tax advice provided only by credentialed CPAs, enrolled agents and tax attorneys. Feature availability varies by device. State tax advice is free. Service, area of expertise, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • Tax Return Access, My Docs and My Analysis & Advice features: Access to all tax-related documents we have on file for you is available until you file your 2017 tax return or through 10/31/2018, whichever comes first. 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 2015 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 March 13, 2017.

  • 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 expected in March. 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: $34.99 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.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice via phone is included with Premier and Home & Business; fees apply for Basic and Deluxe customers. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2015 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2011 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.
Online Software Products
CD/Download Products
Mobile Tax Apps
Help and Support
Tax Tools and Tips
More Products from Intuit