Can I File Head of Household if Married and Husband Is in the Military?

by Tom Streissguth, studioD

When filing tax returns, one of the most important considerations is your correct tax status. Although everyone understands the difference between single and married, many people have a bit of trouble with that mysterious IRS status known as head of household. Because the IRS will correct your return and possibly bill you for overdue taxes if the status is not right, it's important to understand what head of household means before you claim it as your status.


Filing as a head of household means a lower tax rate than if you file as a single person, or if you are married, filing separately. Of course, many taxpayers find themselves in changed circumstances over the course of a year. You may possibly qualify as single, married or a head of household throughout most of the year but no matter, the IRS considers your marital status on the last day of the tax year as the key to your proper filing status.

Head of Household

To file as a head of household, you must either be unmarried or your spouse must live apart from you for at least six months out of the year. In addition, you must provide more than half of the support for your household, including any dependents. You must use Form 1040 or Form 1040A to file as a head of household; you cannot use the short Form 1040EZ.

Military Service

The IRS does not consider military service to qualify as a separation. Therefore, even if your spouse was absent from the household for more than six months during the year, your filing status would remain married. For determining filing status, military service qualifies as a temporary absence, which eventually will end when the spouse returns to the household.

Filing While Deployed

Service members stationed outside the United States or Puerto Rico have an additional 60 days to file their tax returns. That means the ordinary filing deadline is June 15, and the extended filing deadline is December 15. In addition, those deployed to a combat zone or hazardous duty area receive an exemption from federal taxes up to the pay rate for the highest enlisted rank.

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About the Author

Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.

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