TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / Family / 5 Tax Tips for Single Parents

5 Tax Tips for Single Parents

Updated for Tax Year 2016


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.


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 a deduction, credit or exemption, according to Bill Symons, accountant and president of Computer Accounting Systems in Oswego, New York. “The Internal Revenue Service 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.”

tax tips for single parents

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 percent 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

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.

Claiming the child tax credit

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. To qualify, 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. 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.

Get every deduction you deserve

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

For only $54.99$34.99*
Start for Free

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
Here's how
* 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. Free 1040EZ/1040A + Free 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 Bonus Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: File your 2016 federal return with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/18/17 and receive a complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/18 at no additional cost. After you file your taxes, you must activate your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 7/15/2017 by logging into QuickBooks Self-Employed via mobile app or at https://selfemployed.intuit.com/login. Once activated, you will have access to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/2018.
    Offer valid only for new QuickBooks Self-Employed customers.
    • 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 file with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/30/2018, your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription will automatically renew on 5/1/2018 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: In order to pay for the price of TurboTax Self-Employed, you will need at least $600 in deductible business expenses. This calculation is based on the self-employment tax income rate for tax year 2016.
  • 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: $X.XX 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 SmartLook); not included with Federal Free Edition. Feature availability varies by device. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and 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.
  • TurboTax Self-Employed Expense Finder: Available only in TurboTax Self-Employed. Not available for people with certain types of expenses and tax situations including paying contractors or employees, home office or vehicle actuals, inventory, self employed health insurance or retirement, asset depreciation, sale of property or vehicles, and farm income. Some financial institutions limit the timeframe for which historical transactions may be imported by ExpenseFinder. ExpenseFinder expected late January (late February for mobile app).
  • 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 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: $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.
  • 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.