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.

Identification

The IRS has three requirements that must be met in order for a person to qualify as a head of household. 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.

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

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. The qualifying child must have resided in the taxpayer's home as their primary residence for more than half of the tax year. The taxpayer must be able to claim the qualifying child as an exemption on her tax return.

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.

Warning

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.

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