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When you file your income taxes each year, your status has a significant impact on whether you'll receive a big refund or a hefty tax bill. Claiming head of household status allows you to take advantage of a higher standard deduction and a lower overall tax rate than you would by filing as a single person. Not everyone qualifies for this status, so know the guidelines before you file.
Who Is Eligible
The Internal Revenue Service requires you to meet three specific criteria to be eligible for head of household status. You must be unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year; you're considered unmarried if you file a separate return and your spouse did not live with you during the last six months of the year. Next, you must have paid more than half the cost of maintaining your home during the year. Finally, a child or other qualifying person must have lived with you more than half the year.
Under IRS guidelines, a qualifying person may be your child, parent or other relative. If you're claiming a child or a grandchild as a dependent, he must be under age 18. You can claim children up to age 24 if they're enrolled as full-time students or up to any age if they're disabled. Children must be single or you must be able to claim an exemption for them if they're married. A parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or other relative counts as a qualifying person as long as the individual lived with you for more than half the year and you can claim an exemption for this relative on your taxes.
Calculating Home Expenses
If someone else was contributing to your household expenses during the year, you'll need to calculate what percentage you paid to make sure you qualify for head of household. The expenses that the IRS allows you to include in your calculation are property taxes, mortgage interest, rent (if you don't own your home), utility costs, repairs and maintenance, homeowner's or renter's insurance and food costs. If you received public assistance to cover a portion of your housing costs, you must exclude these benefits from the costs you paid.
Filing Your Return
No special forms are required to claim head of household on your taxes. Once you've determined that you meet the individual eligibility requirements, you can use Form 1040 or Form 1040A to complete your return. After you fill in your personal information, select head of household status by checking the appropriate box on line 4 of the tax form you use. To calculate your tax, use the head of household column of the IRS tax table.
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