If you qualify to file as head of household, you are generally entitled to a higher standard deduction and lower tax rates than single individuals.
Two criteria must be met to file under the head-of-household status:
- You must be unmarried at the end of the year.
- You must maintain a household that, for more than half of the tax year, is the principal place of abode of a qualifying individual who is a member of the household.
The marital status of an individual is determined on Dec. 31 of that particular tax year.
You are considered unmarried at the end of the year if your spouse was a nonresident alien at any time during the tax year. You’re also considered unmarried if you are legally separated from your spouse under a decree of divorce or a separate maintenance agreement.
In addition, if your spouse is not a member of the household for the last six months of the year, you are considered to be unmarried at the end of the year. Of course, the most obvious situation of being unmarried is if you are single at the end of the tax year.
A qualifying individual can be either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative of the taxpayer for dependency exemption purposes.
Children do not qualify for head-of-household purposes if they are married at the end of the tax year and file a joint return with their spouse, or are not U.S. citizens, nationals or residents.
A qualifying individual includes any other person who is your dependent if you are entitled to claim a dependency deduction for that person. Individuals can be qualifying relatives provided that they don’t qualify as dependents solely because they lived with you for the entire tax year.
You can qualify for head-of-household status if a separate household is maintained for a parent for the tax year. This separate household must be the parent’s principal place of abode, and the parent must also qualify as your dependent. A parent’s principal place of abode can be a rest home or a home for the aged.