How to Prove You Are a Head of Household to the IRS

You filed your taxes a few months ago, and everything seemed to be in order until the refund check never showed. You check the IRS Where's My Refund? site several times, but the only message you see is "Processing." Then things get real, and the IRS sends you a letter saying you must prove your claim that you are the head of household to get your refund. Depending on the qualification being questioned, you have several options for presenting proof.

Qualification Requirements

To qualify for the head of household filing status, you must meet three requirements: be unmarried or separated, support a qualifying person as your dependent, and pay more than half the cost of maintaining your household.

Proving Your Unmarried Status

If you are divorced or legally separated, you'll need to send photocopies of one of the following:

  • Entire divorce decree.
  • Separate maintenance decree.
  • Separation agreement.

If you are married but your spouse did not live with you for the last six months of the tax year, the IRS will need to see photocopies of at least one of these items:

  • Lease agreement that does not include your spouse on it
  • Utility bills from both residences.
  • Letter from a member of the clergy stating that you and your spouse are not living together.

Verifying Your Qualifying Person

Some people claim themselves as head of household because they are taking care of someone else in the home, but that dependent must be a family member. The IRS wants proof of that, through a photocopy of one of the following documents:

  • Birth certificate.
  • Other official document of birth.
  • Marriage certificate.
  • Letter from authorized adoption agencies.
  • Relevant court documents such as adoption or foster assignment.

In addition to proving the qualifying person requirement, you also need to provide documented proof the person lived with you for at least half of the tax year.

Showing Financial Responsibilities

By claiming head of household, you're telling the IRS that you're the one responsible for the bills. Send the IRS documents showing you paid more than half the cost of keeping your home. Common forms of documentation include:

  • Rent receipts.
  • Mortgage interest statements.
  • Property tax payments.
  • Utility and other household bills.