Who can Qualify as a Head of Household?

Head of household (HOH) is a filing status usually entitled to an unmarried taxpayer who has dependents and is responsible for paying more than half of the household’s costs.

People who come under this filing status are mostly single parents, legally separated parents, divorced parents, or adults supporting their single parents or relatives based on circumstances.

The IRS provides various guidelines to help understand whether a taxpayer qualifies to file as a head of household or not. The tax filing status of an individual depends upon his life circumstances, such as whether he is married or single, has dependents or spouse, or if the spouse is with him or not.

The reason why a taxpayer may want to be qualified as a head of household is its financial benefits. Taxpayers get higher standard deductions and greater chances of potential refund compared to other filing statuses.

To be more clear on whether you can claim the filing status of head of household or not, take a look and understand the given qualifying criteria

The eligibility for the HOH status

To be qualified as a head of household, you must understand these criterions one by one:

Paying more than half of the household costs

This test requires the filer to pay more than half of the costs (51%) for the household in an entire year. The household costs include mortgage interest payments, property taxes, utilities, repairs, property insurance, and groceries.

Costs related to clothing, education, medical care, transportation, vacation, and life insurance do not come under this test. 

You cannot qualify as head of household if you cut down the expenses below 51% in the mid of year. Moreover, if you are using public assistance programs such as temporary assistance for needy families, it will not be counted as financial support from the taxpayer to be qualified as HOH.

To know whether you meet this criterion or not, you can use Worksheet 1 in Publication 501.

Must be unmarried for the tax year

To file as head of household, the taxpayer must be unmarried on the last day of the tax year. This implies that you can be single, legally separated, or divorced. You can also be considered unmarried if you are legally married but have separate residences for more than the last six months of the tax year.

If you and your spouse live in separate houses for temporary circumstances such as military service, educational purposes, business trips, the IRS will consider you as a married person for the tax year.

Have a qualifying child or a dependent

The third criterion to be qualified as head of household is to have a qualifying dependent or child at your home for more than half of the tax year. Keep in mind that only closely related relatives can fall under this category for meeting the filing status of HOH.

The qualifying child include:

  • Your child (biological, stepchild, adopted or foster child), sister or brother, step-sibling, half-sibling, or descendant of any of these individuals whom you claim as dependent under the qualifying children’s rules
  • Your child must be younger than you
  • The child must be under 19, if not a student, or under the age of 24 if he is a full-time college student
  • The child must not have paid more than half of expenses during the tax year

If your dependent does not fulfill the criteria of qualifying a child, he may qualify as a dependent. You can consider the following as qualifying dependents if they live more than half of the year with you and have not paid more than half of their expenses during the tax year.

The qualifying dependent include:

  • Your child (biological, stepchild, adopted or foster child), sister or brother, step-sibling, half-sibling, or descendant of any of these individuals who is permanently and completely disabled
  • Your mother or father
  • It can also be your stepmother, stepfather, sibling of one of your parents, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, niece, or a nephew
  • If your father or mother do not live with you for more than half of the tax year, but you have paid more than half of their costs of the household of the tax year, you can claim them as your dependents to file as head of household