What Are the IRS Requirements for Head of Household?

The primary source of revenue that funds the operation of the federal government is the income tax, which was authorized by the ​16th Amendment​ to the U.S. Constitution. The Internal Revenue Service is the federal agency that is tasked with collecting individual and corporate income taxes. Individuals may file their taxes under one of five filing statuses, including the Head of Household filing status.


Consider Also:Tax Filing Status: How to Choose the Correct Filing Status

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Who Is Head of Household?

The IRS has three requirements that must be met in order for a person to qualify as a head of household. According to H&R Block, the taxpayer must be unmarried, or considered unmarried for tax purposes, as of the last day of the tax year. The taxpayer must have provided more than ​50 percent​ of the cost for maintaining the home. A qualifying person must have lived in the taxpayer's home for at least half of the tax year.


Consider Also:Head of Household: The Rules to Choosing Head of Household When Filing Your Taxes

Additional IRS Considerations

If the qualifying person is a student, temporary absences for time at school are included as time living in the home. If the qualifying person is a parent who is claimed as a dependent on the taxpayer's income tax return, the parent is not required to reside in the home. The taxpayer must have paid at least ​half of the upkeep​ on the home where the qualifying parent resides, or ​half of the living expenses​ if the qualifying parent resides in a nursing home or facility for the aged.


Marital Status Rules

Individuals who are still married, may be considered unmarried for tax purposes if they meet certain requirements established by the IRS. A married taxpayer who wishes to file as Head of Household may not file a joint return. She must have contributed more than ​50 percent​ of the upkeep of her home during the tax year.


The taxpayer's spouse may not have lived in the taxpayer's home during the final ​six months​ of the tax year, says the IRS. The qualifying dependent must have resided in the taxpayer's home as their primary residence for more than ​half of the tax year.


Consider Also:Married Filing Jointly: When Married Couples Should File With This Status

IRS Head of Household Benefits

Taxpayers who are able to file under the Head of Household status will typically be able to take advantage of a lower tax rate than those available to taxpayers who file as Single or Married Filing Separately. Taxpayers filing as Head of Household are allowed a higher standard deduction than those filing as Single or Married Filing Separately.


When to Seek Counsel

Rules regarding filing as a Head of Household can be complex, particularly for taxpayers who are claiming this status based on the presumption of being considered unmarried, rather than being legally unmarried. These rules can be even more complicated when child custody, legal separations, temporary absences and community property states are involved. Taxpayers who have any doubts about their filing status should seek the counsel of a qualified tax professional.