Below you will find information to help you determine if you are eligible to file your tax return with the filing status of Head of Household.  If necessary, review IRS Publication 17 Your Federal Income Tax (For Individuals) for additional details before making a final determination. You may also wish to utilize the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) topic What is my filing status?

If you qualify to file as head of household, your tax rate usually will be lower than the rates for single or married filing separately. You will also receive a higher standard deduction than if you file as single or married filing separately.

You may be able to file as head of household if you meet all the following requirements.
  1. You are unmarried or “considered unmarried” on the last day of the year.
  2. You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
  3. A “qualifying person” lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences, such as school).  However, if the “qualifying person” is your dependent parent, he or she does not have to live with you. See Special rule for parent, below.
Special rule for parent. If your qualifying person is your father or mother, you may be eligible to file as head of household even if your father or mother does not live with you. However, you must be able to claim an exemption for your father or mother. Also, you must pay more than half the cost of keeping up a home that was the main home for the entire year for your father or mother. You are keeping up a main home for your father or mother if you pay more than half the cost of keeping your parent in a rest home or home for the elderly.

Marital Status

In general, your filing status depends on whether you are considered unmarried or married.

Unmarried persons. You are considered unmarried for the whole year if, on the last day of your tax year, you are unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree.  State law governs whether you are married or legally separated under a divorce or separate maintenance decree.

For additional information you can refer to IRS Publication 501 Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.

Considered Unmarried

To qualify for head of household status, you must be either unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year. You are considered unmarried on the last day of the tax year if you meet all the following tests.
  1. You file a separate return.
  2. You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.
  3. Your spouse did not live in your home during the last 6 months of the tax year. Your spouse is considered to live in your home even if he or she is temporarily absent due to special circumstances. See IRS Publication 17 page 24, Temporary absences.
  4. Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half the year. (See IRS Publication 17 page 24, Home of qualifying person, for rules applying to a child’s birth, death, or temporary absence during the year.)
  5. You must be able to claim an exemption for the child. However, you meet this test if you cannot claim the exemption only because the noncustodial parent can claim the child using the rules described in Children of divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart under Qualifying Child in chapter 3 of IRS Publication 17, or in Support Test for Children of Divorced or Separated Parents or Parents Who Live Apart under Qualifying Relative in chapter 3. The general rules for claiming an exemption for a dependent are explained under Exemptions for Dependents in chapter 3.
If you were considered married for part of the year and lived in a community property state (listed earlier in IRS Publication 17 under Married Filing Separately), special rules may apply in determining your income and expenses. See IRS Publication 555 for more information.

Nonresident alien spouse. You are considered unmarried for head of household purposes if your spouse was a nonresident alien at any time during the year and you do not choose to treat your nonresident spouse as a resident alien. However, your spouse is not a qualifying person for head of household purposes. You must have another qualifying person and meet the other tests to be eligible to file as a head of household.

Earned income credit. Even if you are considered unmarried for head of household purposes because you are married to a nonresident alien, you are still considered married for purposes of the earned income credit (unless you meet the five tests listed earlier under Considered Unmarried). You are not entitled to the credit unless you file a joint return with your spouse and meet other qualifications.

Choice to treat spouse as resident. You are considered married if you choose to treat your spouse as a resident alien (see IRS Publication 519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens).

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