What Defines Head of Household for a Single Woman When Filing Her Income Tax Return?

by Samantha Kemp
Head of household status is based on very specific criteria.

Qualifying for head of household status can make a significant impact on the size of your tax refund or potential tax liability. In addition to being able to claim a better tax rate than women with single status, you can also receive a higher standard deduction when you file your taxes. For the 2013 tax year, taxpayers who claimed head of household had a standard deduction that was $2,700 more than those with single status alone.

Head of Household

The Internal Revenue Service requires you to meet three requirements before you qualify for head of household status. First, you must be unmarried or considered unmarried on Dec. 31 of the previous year. Second, a qualifying person must have resided with you for more than half the year. Third, you must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year. Each of these requirements has a specific definition under tax laws.

Marital Status

To qualify for head of household status, you must be unmarried or considered unmarried. To the IRS, "unmarried" means you were never married, were legally separated or divorced under a final decree by Dec. 31 of the previous year or were a widow. "Considered unmarried" means you were legally married on Dec. 31 but ending your relationship and living separately from your spouse during the last six months of the year.

Qualifying Person

You can't live alone and qualify for head of household. A qualifying child, parent or other relative must live in the household with you. A qualifying child is your child or grandchild who is 18 or younger, up to age 24 and a full-time student or disabled and living with you for more than half the year. A qualifying parent is your mother or father, who can be claimed as an exemption due to that parent's limited income. The parent must live with you or in a nursing home. A qualifying relative is a grandparent, sibling, nephew, niece, uncle or aunt who lived with you for more than half the year and can be claimed as an exemption.

Costs of Maintaining Home

You must be able to show that you paid for more than half the cost of keeping up the home where the qualifying person or people lived. IRS Worksheet 1 is available to help determine these costs. If your situation still seems shaky, the IRS offers a self-test on its website.

References

About the Author

Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.

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