Head of Household: What It Means and The Benefits to Claiming It on Your Tax Returns

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February 1, 2012 ‐ By P.S. Jones

The first thing you have to calculate when figuring your tax return is what filing status you are filing. The decision is important because your rate of tax payment is based on which filing status you choose. There are five choices: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child and head of household. Of the five options, head of household is probably the one that causes the most confusion. Many taxpayers don’t even know that they fall into that tax bracket.

To file head of household, you must meet three requirements. First, you must be single or considered single on the last day of the year. For example, legally separated people are considered single by the IRS. You also have to pay more than half the household expenses of your residence. Finally, you have to have a dependent that you’re claiming on your tax return who lives with you more than half the year. Single parents are a perfect fit for head of household but so are singles who take care of an elderly or disabled parent, or take care of a family member in general for more than half of the year. I know what you’re thinking: “Why would you want to claim head of household if you could possibly file single or married filing separately?” It’s a matter of tax rate. The idea is that someone in this position should have a lower tax rate than a single person without a dependent or a married person who doesn’t pay most of the household expenses. You also get a higher amount of money to deduct from your taxable income if you take the standard deduction. Still unsure of whether head of household is for you? Use the handy tax assistant software the IRS offers on its website. The What is My Filing Status?  page can help you determine whether you qualify for head of household and whether it’s advantageous of you to choose it.

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