Qualifications to File Taxes as Head of Household

In order to help taxpayers understand whether or not they qualify to file as head of household, the IRS has provided a series of guidelines.

Potentially, you could file in a lower tax bracket and have a higher refund amount than if you file as a single filer status.

Certain criteria are required for this status. To file as head of household, you must:

  • Pay for more than half of the household expenses
  • Be considered unmarried for the tax year
  • Have a qualifying child or dependent

Are you wondering if you should file as single or head of household?

Let’s dig in to these qualifications and see which filing status describes you best.


Pay for more than 50% of the household expenses

In order to qualify for this criteria, you must have paid more than half of the total household bills, including:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Utility bills
  • Insurance
  • Property taxes
  • Groceries
  • Repairs
  • Other common household expenses

If someone else (such as another adult living in the home or a parent) contributes to household expenses, you must pay more than 50% of the bills with your own earnings, savings, or capital.

Considered unmarried for tax year 2019

You must be unmarried on the last day of the tax year 2019 for this qualification.

To be considered unmarried means:

  • You file a separate return
  • You paid more than half of the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year
  • Your spouse did not live in the home during the last 6 months of the tax year
  • Your home was the main home for your child, step child, or foster child for at least 6 months of the tax year
  • You must be able to claim the child as a dependent

The IRS still considers you and your spouse married for the tax year even if you were living apart temporarily, for reasons like military service, business trips, medical facility stays, or college attendance.

You can claim a qualifying child or dependent

A qualifying child is not just your son or daughter.

However, if someone else is claiming the child or dependent that is living in your home, you may not also claim him/her. They must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The child must be your biological or adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, step sibling, half sibling, or a descendant (child, grandchild, great grandchild, etc.) of one of these relatives.
  • The child must have lived within your home for more than 6 months during the tax year.
  • The child needs to be younger than you.
  • As of the end of the tax year, the child must be under 19 if he is not a student, or under 24 if he is a full-time college student.
  • The child must not have paid for more than 50% of his living expenses during the tax year.

There are cases where you may be eligible to file as head of household even if you are unable to claim your child as a dependent.

For divorced or separated parents, if the child lived in your home for more than half of the year, you may file as head of household, even if the divorce or separation agreement gives the other parent the right to claim the child as a dependent.

If you want to claim a dependent, check out this list from Credit Karma to discover who is a qualifying person. They offer a few tests to see.

As the guidelines change from year to year, it’s difficult to keep it all straight. For more information about head of household filing guidelines, contact the experts at Morgan & Associates CPAs.