Can I File As Head of Household if I Am Married & My Spouse Does Not Work?

Federal tax returns are due each year by April 15.

The Internal Revenue Service offers five filing statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Qualifying Widow(er) and Head of Household. The IRS typically only allows a single person to file his taxes using the Head of Household status, but there are some exceptions to the rule.

Marital Status

Your marital status for the entire tax year is determined by your marital status as of the last day of the year. If you are considered legally married by the state in which you reside as of the last day of the year, the IRS considers you to have been married for the whole year. If you are considered legally unmarried in the state in which you reside as of the last day of the year, the IRS considers you to have been unmarried for the entire year. If you are going through a divorce, but the divorce is not final, the Internal Revenue Service still considers you to be married.

Head of Household

You can generally only file your taxes using the Head of Household filing status if you are unmarried as of the last day of the tax year and meet the additional qualifications of having paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for yourself and a qualifying person. The qualifying person does not have to be your child. The qualifying person could be a dependent parent. The qualifying person cannot be your spouse, even if your spouse does not work and is dependent on you for support.

Considered Unmarried

You may be able to file your federal income tax return using the Head of Household filing status even if you are married, if you are considered unmarried as of the last day of the year. The Internal Revenue Service has five tests that you must pass to be considered unmarried for tax purposes. You and your spouse must file separate returns. You must have paid more than half of the cost to maintain your home during the tax year. Your spouse cannot have lived in the home during the last six months of the tax year. Your home had to be the primary residence for your child for at least six months of the tax year. In most cases you must be able to claim an exemption for the child.

Considerations

Married couples have the option of filing their federal tax returns jointly or separately. You can file a joint return even if only one spouse had income. In most cases you will have a smaller tax obligation by filing a joint return than by filing separately, even if you qualify to as Head of Household because you are considered unmarried.

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