“What do you mean I’m not head of household? I bring home the bacon.”

January 20, 2015 by Wyatt Lewis, EA
bacon

There is a lot of misconception in the words “head of household.” Yes, in the ordinary sense of the term you may be head of household. After all, you are the responsible party and you provide your own financial support. However, when it comes to taxes, like many other tax terms, “head of household” takes on a different meaning. Generally, in order to qualify for the “head of household” filing status, you must meet the following tests:

(1)  You must be unmarried at the end of the year. If you are married, you may be “considered unmarried” if you meet all of these tests:


  • You file a separate return.

  • You paid for more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.  The cost of keeping up a home includes property tax, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, repairs, property insurance, food consumed on the premises, and other household expenses.

  • Your spouse did not live in your home during the last six months of the tax year.

  • Your home was the main home for more than half the year for your child, stepchild, or eligible foster child. Your child must be your dependent (unless the noncustodial parent is allowed the exemption under a written decree, agreement, or release of the exemption).

  • You are a U.S. citizen or resident during the entire year.

(2)  You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home.

(3)  Your home was the main home for more than half the year for a qualifying child or a qualifying relative.

  • Your "qualifying child" must be under the age of 19 (or under 24 if a full-time student or permanently and totally disabled) and meet all the other tests.

  • A "qualifying relative" must be your dependent and have the “right relationship.” Your child, grandchild, great-grandchild, adopted child, stepchild, father or mother, grandparent, father- or mother-in-law, stepfather or stepmother, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or son- or daughter-in-law, brother or sister, half-brother or half-sister, brother- or sister-in-law, stepbrother or stepsister can qualify you. Additional tests must be met as well.

  •  If the qualifying person is your dependent parent, they do not have to reside in your home, but the home provided for them must be their main home for the entire year (rest homes or nursing homes can qualify as their place of residence).
(4)  You are a U.S. citizen or resident during the entire year.

If you have a qualifying child or qualifying relative and you meet the other requirements, you may be able to use the head of household filing status when preparing your tax return. The standard deduction for the head of household filing status is generally more advantageous to the taxpayer than the “single” or “married filing separate” filing statuses.  If you are unsure about which filing status is most appropriate for your situation, please feel free to submit your question as a comment below. And be sure to include all of the relevant details of your situation!

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