Head of Household: How to File Tax Returns

Combat the complications of ‘adulting’ with our guide to filing tax returns as head of household.

How to File Tax Returns

There's no way around it. Sometimes, being an adult is hard. It's complicated. It's boring. It's stressful. It makes you want to throw a blanket over your head and pretend you're invisible, like you did when you were five. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way for grown-ups. There are specific responsibilities we must take care of – taking out the trash, holding down a job, finding a place to live, and paying taxes.

Fortunately, we're here to help with one of those things. If you've recently found yourself in the very adult position of ‘head of household,' read on to see what that means for your tax filing. It's easy, we promise! You can also learn more about what the head of household means at locustax.com.

The 1-2-3 of T-A-X

Let's start with the basics. What exactly is a ‘head of household'? Put as simply as we can, it's a status for single or unmarried taxpayers who are maintaining a home, where a qualifying person, such as a child or other relatives, also live. Filing as head of household has more generous standard deductions and tax rates than the ‘single' status. This sounds great, right? Everyone should do it! Alas, the IRS has a list of criteria you must meet before you can use this filing status.

  • You must be unmarried, or ‘considered unmarried,' on the last day of the tax year.
  • If you're unmarried, or have documents proving legal separation or divorce on the last day of the year, you have unmarried status. To be ‘considered unmarried,' you must either file your return separately from your spouse, have lived independently from that spouse for at least half the year, or paid more than half the cost of maintaining your home for the year.
  • You have paid more than half the household's maintenance costs for the year.

The IRS has several rules for determining if you've met this requirement, but here's the handy rundown of the costs they include:

  • Mortgage interest
  • Real estate taxes
  • Property taxes
  • Repairs and utilities
  • Food consumed at home
  • Home insurance

The fees they don't:

  • Education
  • Clothes
  • Medical insurance or treatment
  • Vacations
  • Life insurance
  • Mortgage costs
  • Transportation

If the total amount you’ve paid towards these costs is more than half of the total, then you meet this qualifying requirement. Congratulations! You might be a head of household. On the other hand, it's possible that there can be more one head of household – if you have more than one property, and you and your spouse pay more than half the total costs of one of those properties each, you may both qualify even if you live in the same house.

  • You must have maintained a household for a dependent or qualifying relative.

A qualifying dependent or relative might include a child, stepparent, adopted or foster child, uncle or aunt, half-sibling, step-sibling, or in-laws. The relative must have lived with you for more than half the year.

Remember, if you're planning on filing as head of household since you see you meet the criteria to be considered unmarried for the tax purposes, the qualifying person is limited to your son or daughter or eligible foster child. Remember, if you're filing as head of household as ‘considered unmarried,' you can only consider a son, daughter, or foster child as a qualifying relative.  

And that’s that! Good luck, have fun, and enjoy your new tax status.

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