My fiancé is incarcerated - How do I file my taxes?

January 31, 2022 by Carolyn Richardson, EA, MBA
1040-SR Tax Return

My fiancé has recently been incarcerated, and will be for a long time, leaving me unemployed and 9 months pregnant. Prior to arrest he filled on pandemic unemployment. But I did not, he was head of house hold. How should I file taxes this year?


Hi Paige,

You asked how you should file your 2021 tax return now that your fiancé is in jail and likely to be for a long time.

Generally, your filing status depends on your marital status. Since you were engaged but not married, your choices for filing a return are limited to two statuses: Single or Head of Household. If you cannot qualify for Head of Household (HoH), then you will have to file as Single.

The qualifications for filing as Head of Household are as follows:

  1. You must be unmarried as of December 31, 2021 (for filing a 2021 return).
  2. You must have a “qualifying” person. You mentioned you were 9 months pregnant when your fiancé was locked up, but you don’t say whether you had the baby in 2021, in early 2022, or if you are still pregnant. That’s important – if the baby was born in 2021, you can claim HoH. If the baby was not born until 2022, you will have to file as Single for 2021, but may qualify as HoH for 2022.
  3. You must have paid more than half the cost of maintaining your main home and the main home of your qualified person for the year. The costs of maintaining a home include rent or mortgage payments, real property taxes, insurance, repairs, maintenance, utilities, food consumed in the home. Expenses such as clothing, transportation, or schooling are not allowed in determining the support of the household.
  4. You cannot be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.

You don’t say how you are paying the bills now that you appear to be living on your own. If your fiancé, whom you were apparently living with prior to his incarceration, paid for the household expenses before this, you would not be considered to have paid more than half the expense of maintaining the household so you would not qualify as Head of Household for 2021 if you were not contributing to the costs during that year.

So, based on the information we have, you would have to file as Single for 2021.

Even if you have to file as Single for 2021 because you did not pay more than half the cost of maintaining your home for 2021, if your child was born in 2021, you could still claim the child as a dependent for purposes of the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit (if you had any earned income), and Child and Dependent Care credit (if you paid anyone to take care of your child).

If you are now living with someone else, such as your parents, they may be able to claim your child if you do not have a filing requirement ($4,300 of income for 2021). That has another set of rules however and, if that is the case, you probably should all talk to a tax professional before you file your returns.

Carolyn Richardson, EA, MBA



Carolyn Richardson, EA, MBA
Learning Content Managing Editor


Carolyn has been in the tax field since 1984, when she went to work at the IRS as a Revenue Agent. Carolyn taught many classes at the IRS on both tax law changes and new hire training. In 1990, she left the IRS for a position at CCH, where she was a developer on both the service bureau software and on the Prosystevm fx tax preparation software for nearly 17 years. After leaving CCH she worked at several Los Angeles-based CPA firms before starting at TaxAudit as an Audit Representative in 2009. Carolyn became the manager of the Education and Research Department in 2011, developing course materials for the company and overseeing the research requests. Currently, she is the Learning Content Managing Editor. 


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