Standard Deduction for Head of Household

by Fraser Sherman, studioD Google

As of 2013, the standard deduction when you file as head of household is $8,950. That's not as good as a joint return will get you, but it's a better deal than single or married taxpayers filing separately receive. If you meet the IRS requirements, you can claim the HOH filing status whether you're married or single.

Marital Status

You can file as head of household if you are unmarried or "considered unmarried" in the eyes of the IRS, pay more than half the costs of running your household and have a dependent living with you. What the IRS "considers unmarried" is very specific: you may be able to file as head of household if you are legally married but file a separate return from your spouse and you lived apart from her for at least the second half of the year. Having her away on military duty or in a hospital doesn't count.

Qualifying Person

If someone qualifies as your dependent according to the basic IRS rules, this helps you qualify for the HOH filing status. This can be a "qualifying child" or a "qualifying relative." For example, if you have an unmarried child younger than 18 living with you and he provides less than half of his own support, he qualifies as a dependent child. If you help support a grandparent, parent or sibling who lives with you, and you can claim a dependent's exemption for him, you're also qualified. If you support one of your parents, he can qualify you even if he doesn't live with you. The rules with regard to who counts as your dependent and who doesn't are complicated: there are multiple exceptions and special cases, detailed in IRS Publication 501.

Tax Brackets

Like the standard deduction, the tax brackets for heads of household are also more advantageous than for single or separate filers. When you file separately, you start paying at the 15 percent tax rate when your income hits $8,925. For a head of household, you pay a 10 percent rate until you start earning over $12,750. The top tax rate starts at $425,001 for a head of household, as opposed to $225,001 for separate filers and $400,001 for singles.

Tax Credits

In addition to the higher deduction and better tax brackets, you get other advantages filing as head of household instead of filing a separate married return. Separate filers can't claim the child and dependent care tax credit, for instance, or the adoption-expenses credit. If you file separately, you also don't get the earned income tax credit or any tuition-related tax credits. As head of household, on the other hand, you qualify for all of those credits.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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