Difference Between Filing Single & Head of Household

The head of household standard deduction is larger than for a single person.

Single status and head of household status are both types of filing status that a person can claim for federal income taxes. If a person is married, she cannot claim head of household status unless special conditions apply. Head of household status increases the size of some tax deductions, including the standard deduction.


Head of household status was introduced in 1951, according to the Treasury. The purpose of this filing status is to allow an individual, such as a single mother, to claim some deductions that a married individual receives because the individual has to support other members of her family. Either a man or woman can claim head of household status, but the taxpayer must claim dependents to qualify.


A member of a married couple can claim head of household status if this member is legally separated from his spouse for more than six months at the end of the tax year even if the couple was not separated earlier in the year. If there has been no legal separation, other conditions apply. For more than six months of the current year, both members of the couple must have lived at different residences, dependents the head of household claims must have lived with the head of household and the head of household must have paid utilities, upkeep and other bills to maintain the home.


Head of household status is also available to a widow or a widower. According to Georgia State University, the widow can still file a joint return for the first two years after her husband dies, which provides larger deductions than head of household status offers. After this period ends, the widow may file as a head of household if she can claim other dependents.

Claiming Dependents

Because the head of household is responsible for more than half of the dependent's expenses, two people cannot claim the same dependent to gain head of household status. A taxpayer can claim a foster child to gain this status if the taxpayer adopts the child through a foster agency or a court custody decision. According to the California Franchise Tax Board, a man cannot claim his girlfriend's child, who has a different father, if he was never married to her and did not legally adopt the child.