Who Qualifies for “Head of Household” Tax Filing Status?

head of household

By: Laura Lloyd

Published: October 5, 2021

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You’re in the middle of filing your tax returns. You notice that there’s an option to check “Head of Household.” Now you’re probably sitting here wondering what that even means.

You should know that you aren’t alone when it comes to terms like these. Filing your taxes can seem overwhelming as they tend to use verbiage with which the typical person is unfamiliar (to put it lightly). Nevertheless, whether you’ve chosen to do this task independently or hire a pro, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with these terms.

Here we’ll not only define “Head of Household,” but we’ll answer some of the other questions you may have regarding the details behind the classification. Let’s take a closer look.

Common Questions Regarding “Head of Household”

As you look at your tax return, you’ll see that you can file as single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, or qualifying widow(er). You may think that the head of household and single status are essentially the same thing, however they are distinct and different. 

The difference in these two categories is that for a person to qualify as head of household, they must maintain a household where a “qualifying child” lives for more than half of the year. 

Who is a Qualifying Child?

Several requirements must be met here for the child to “qualify.” The child must be:

  • Living in your home for more than half a year
  • Your biological child, stepchild, adopted child, sibling, or step-sibling
  • Under 19-years-old or a student under 24-years-old
  • Unable to provide over half of their support throughout the year

What does it Mean to Maintain a Household?

Sometimes the IRS refers to this as “keeping up a home.” There are several factors that they take into consideration here to determine if you meet this status. To begin with, you must have lived in the home for the tax year. If this is true, then you must have paid over half the cost of running this home. These costs include property taxes, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, property insurance, repairs, upkeep, food. However, they don’t include medical care, clothing, education, life insurance, or transportation.

What about Marital Status?

To file as head of household, you cannot have someone claim you as a dependent. Instead, you must be single. Otherwise, you’ll need to file as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” You cannot file as head of household if you aren’t single, or someone else can claim you as a dependent.

There is only one case in which this rule is somewhat different. If you’ve lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the year, have a dependent child living with you, and maintain the household, you’re considered unmarried. If you meet the requirements of this definition, the IRS will allow you to file as head of household.

Why is it Advantageous to File as “Head of Household?”

This information regarding filing head of household is vital to understand. The status offers more benefits than you’ll receive when filing taxes as a single person or a married couple filing separately. Take a moment to look at what some of these benefits include.

You’ll Enjoy a Lower Tax Bracket

Tax brackets determine how much taxes you’ll need to pay. For instance, taxpayers who have a gross income of $9,000 – $37,000 you’ll be required to pay a 15% tax rate. However, you won’t pay this rate unless you make $50,000 or more when you file as head of household.

You’ll Receive Higher Standard Deductions

The IRS allows you to take what they call “standard deductions.” This portion of your income isn’t subjected to taxation, so it lowers your tax bill. A married couple filing separately in the 2020 tax year could claim $12,400, but the head of household would receive $18,650. Here is a difference of about $6,000 in favor of those filing as head of household.

Lloyd & Hodge Know Taxes and Accounting

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options you have regarding filing your taxes and deciphering all the legal jargon throughout. The earlier you start planning, the better your chances of making the most of the available tax breaks there are.

At Lloyd & Hodge, we can offer individuals and small businesses reliable tax advice to save you and your family money. Contact us today to help you navigate your options and choose the best college saving strategy for your family.

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