IRS Head of Household Filing Status
The IRS Head Of Household filing status is one of the most misunderstood tax filing statuses. However, knowing about this filing status is important because it comes with some great tax benefits for those who qualify. For example, this is a great filing status for single parents! That is why it is so misunderstood. Many think you can file for this status if you are married, which is not the case. You must be single or unmarried, with a dependent child or children to qualify. This means that you cannot claim head of household if you keep up the cost of a house that only you live in. You must have a qualifying dependent. You also cannot claim it if you are married, even if you are the only person in your family bringing in money and taking care of the house.
What Is Head of Household?
Head of household is a filing status for single or unmarried taxpayers who keep up a home for a qualifying person. The head of household filing status has some important tax advantages over the single filing status. If you qualify as head of household, you will have a lower tax rate and a higher standard deduction than a single filer.
Another tax advantage is that heads of household must have a higher income than single filers before they owe income tax. This is because their standard deduction is higher. For example, you could make up to $19,400 from regular employment income before you owe any taxes as a head of household in 2022.
The HOHucator tool will help you determine whether or not you qualify for the head of household filing status. Try it out!
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If you qualify to claim head of household, start your return on eFile.com using the buttons at the end of the tool. You can start free; submitting your email will enable you to receive informational emails and eFile promo codes if your return is not free.
Single Vs. Head of Household
The benefits of head of household are limited to single persons with at least one dependent. In many ways, the head of household is far more beneficial for singles with dependents. The table below outlines some key figures of the head of household versus single filing status.
Allows you to deduct $12,950 from your taxable income.
Allows you to deduct $19,400 from your taxable income.
Lowest tax brackets of all filing statuses; singles making under $41,775 are generally only taxed up to 12%.
The middle tax bracket of all filing statuses; heads of household making under $55,900 are generally taxed up to 12%.
Singles generally must make half as much money as married persons to claim certain credits or deductions.
If single with a dependent, you may have a higher income threshold than singles for certain credits.
Heads of household may be entitled to higher deductions and credits on their taxes; they also qualify more easily for various tax savings. For example, singles making under $150,000 can claim the credit for the newly enhanced EV tax credit, but heads of household making up to $225,000 can claim it.
Qualifications for Head of Household
You can e-file your tax return using this status if you meet all 3 of these head of household filing status requirements:
- You were not married (you were single, divorced, or legally separated) or were considered unmarried on the last day of the tax year, December 31.
- You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
- A qualifying person lived with you in that home for more than half the year, except for temporary absences (a dependent parent is not required to live with you).
The head of household filing status is specifically designed to give single parents a tax break as it can give you a few ways to save on your taxes. When you start your return on eFile.com, select this filing status when you first begin entering information.
Who Is Considered Unmarried?
In some cases, a person is still legally married but lives separately from their spouse, who provides little or no support. Even if you are still legally married, you may be considered unmarried for the purposes of the head of household filing status if all of the following statements are true:
- You are not filing a joint return.
- You paid more than half the costs of keeping up the home during the year.
- Your spouse did not live with you anytime during the last six months of the year (temporary absences don't count as not living with you).
- Your qualifying person is your child, stepchild, or foster child and they lived in your home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences).
- You must be able to claim the child as a dependent. However, there is an exception if you can't claim the child as a dependent because the noncustodial parent can claim the child using the rules for children of divorced or separated parents.
Special Case: Temporary Absence
You are still considered to have lived with your spouse in your home if you only lived apart due to temporary absences. A temporary absence includes living away from home for school, business, military service, medical treatment, or vacation, with the expectation of returning home after the absence.
Special Case: Nonresident Alien Spouse
You can be considered unmarried (single) for the purpose of filing as head of household if your spouse was a nonresident alien anytime during the year and you do not choose to treat them as a resident alien for tax purposes. You are considered married if you treat your spouse as a resident alien on your tax return.
Your spouse cannot be a qualifying person, so you must have another qualifying person to be eligible to file as a head of household.
Costs of Keeping up a Home
To claim head of household, you must be unmarried, claim a dependent, and pay most or all costs of keeping up your home for you and your dependent(s). To determine if you paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home, you must first determine the total cost. All of the following expenses should be included when determining the total cost of keeping up a home:
Head of Household
- Mortgage interest
- Property taxes
- Repairs and maintenance
- Food eaten in the home
- Other household expenses.
Once you figure the total cost, simply halve the number and compare the result to your actual expenses to see if you paid more. If you meet this test, you may be able to file your taxes as head of household if you fulfil the other requirements on this page. If you are unsure, start this free head of household tool to determine if you qualify.
Special Case: Multiple People Pay the Cost of Keeping up a Home
You are considered to have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home if you paid a greater portion of the total cost than anybody else did, even if you actually paid less than half of the total cost.
Special Case: Public Assistance
If you paid any costs of keeping up your home with funds received from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or other public assistance programs, you may not include those amounts in the expenses you paid. However, you must still count these expenses toward the total cost of keeping up a home.
Qualifying Person for Head of Household
A qualifying person is someone who qualifies you to file as head of household if they lived with you in your home for more than half the year, not counting temporary absences. Your parent, however, does not have to live with you to be a qualifying person. Many dependents will count as a qualifying person for head of household, but some dependents will not. A qualifying person does not necessarily have to be a dependent.
So, who does count as a qualifying person? Any of the following can be a qualifying person:
- A qualifying child who is single.
- A qualifying child who is married, as long as you can claim them as a dependent (they can still be your qualifying person if the only reason you cannot claim them is that you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return).
- Your mother or father, if you can claim them as a dependent.
- A qualifying relative that is related to you, if they lived with you for more than half the year and you can claim them as a dependent. Any of the following relations may count as a qualifying person: your child, stepchild, grandchild, or other descendant of one of your children (or stepchildren or foster children), son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, parent, stepfather, stepmother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandparent, great-grandparent, and, if related by blood, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.
Qualifying Person Examples:
Child Who Is a Qualifying Person, Example 1: Your single daughter, who was 18 years old on December 31, lived with you all year and had no income, so she did not provide more than half of her own support. She is your qualifying child and single, so she is a qualifying person for head of household.
Child Who Is a Qualifying Person, Example 2: Your single daughter was 20 on December 31. She was a full-time student and lived on campus while attending school (temporary absence), so she is considered to have lived with you. She paid some of her own expenses but did not pay more than half of her own support. She is your qualifying child and single, so she is a qualifying person.
Child Who Is Not a Qualifying Person: Your son is single and was 25 years old at the end of the year and lived with you. He had a gross income of $10,000 for the year, is too old to be your qualifying child, and made too much money to be your qualifying relative, so you cannot claim him as a dependent. Therefore, he is not a qualifying person for head of household.
Girlfriend or Boyfriend: Your girlfriend lived with you all year without income. You can claim her as a dependent because she is your qualifying relative, but she is not a qualifying person for head of household because she is not related to you. Your girlfriend or boyfriend can never be your qualifying person for the head of household filing status.
Child of Girlfriend or Boyfriend: Your girlfriend's 9-year-old son, who is not your child, lived with you all year, and you provided all of his support. You can claim him as a dependent because he is your qualifying relative, but he is not a qualifying person for head of household because he is not actually related to you.
Qualifying Person Special Cases
There are certain scenarios where you may be able to claim head of household that some may fall into.
If you or your qualifying person were temporarily absent from your home, you are still considered to have lived together in the home. An acceptable temporary absence includes living away from the home for the purposes of school, business, military service, medical treatment, or vacation. You or your qualifying person must be expected to return to the home after the absence, and you must have kept up the home during the absence.
Birth or Death of Qualifying Person
If your qualifying person was born or died during the year, they are still considered to have lived with you for the entire year as long as you paid more than half of the cost of keeping up the home during the time your qualifying person was alive.
Parent as Your Qualifying Person
If you support your mother or father, but they did not live with you, you may still be able to claim them as a qualifying person for the head of household filing status. To do this, you must be able to claim them as your dependent and you must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up the home in which they lived for the entire year. If your parent lived in a rest home, nursing home, or home for the elderly, you are considered to have kept up their main home if you paid more than half of the cost of them living there.
Multiple Support Agreement
Suppose you can claim someone as a dependent only because of a multiple support agreement (where several people provide someone's support). In that case, you cannot count them as a qualifying person for head of household status.
If your qualifying person is a child who was kidnapped and thus did not live with you, you are still entitled to file as head of household if the following three statements are true:
- Law enforcement presumes that the child was not kidnapped by a member of your family or the child's family.
- The child lived with you for more than half of the part of the year before they were kidnapped, in the year in which they were kidnapped.
- If the child had not been kidnapped, you would qualify as head of household.
If multiple years pass before the child is recovered, you may file as head of household for each year in which the above statements hold true until the year the child turns 18 or until the child is determined to be deceased.
How to File as Head of Household
It is easy to file as head of household on eFile.com; choosing your filing status is one of the first things you do when preparing your tax return. When you claim the head of household filing status, we will report that filing status on your tax return and automatically apply all the benefits (such as a higher standard deduction as described above) as you work. Start here for free and eFileIT.
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