Can I Claim Head of Household if I Am Unemployed?

The Internal Revenue Service has established different filing statuses for taxpayers. They determine their standard and other deductions, as well as credits and exclusions they may claim in their tax returns. Head of household is one such filing status, as are also single, married filing separately, married filing jointly and qualified widow or widower. Unemployment does not disqualify you from claiming head of household status.

Head of Household Eligibility

To file as head of household, you have to meet three requirements: You must be unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the tax return’s year. In addition, you have to have paid more than half of your household expenses in the tax year. An individual, whom the IRS describes as a qualifying person, must also have lived in your home for more than six months. An exception is made when you claim your parent as a dependent. Such individual counts as a qualifying person even if she didn't live with you.

Marital Status Clarification

It is important to clarify how the IRS defines "unmarried" and "considered unmarried" for the purpose of filing as head of household. You are unmarried if you are single or legally separated from your spouse. You are also considered unmarried by the IRS if all of the following is true: You are filing a separate tax return; you paid for more than half of the household expenses in the year; and your spouse lived away from your home in the last six months of the tax year.

Qualifying Person

The qualifying person who must have lived with you for more than half a year for you to claim head of household status can be either a dependent child or other dependent relative. The qualifying child can be a biological or legal son or daughter, or a grandchild. Siblings and step-siblings can also be qualifying children. They must be younger than 19 -- or than 24 if they are students -- and younger than you. The age criteria do not apply if the dependent is permanently disabled. Other dependent relatives may also be qualifying individuals. An IRS representative or a tax preparer can help you determine whether someone other than a child makes you eligible for head of household status.

Status Advantage

Filing as head of household generally puts you in a lower tax bracket and allows you to claim a higher standard deduction than single and married taxpayers filing separately enjoy. You’ll use IRS Form 1040 or 1040A to prepare your tax return under this filing status. If you receive unemployment, note that not every payment type increases your tax liability. Indicate in your return the amount you get from state unemployment insurance and the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund, for example, as gross earnings and expect them to be taxed at the time you prepare your return. On the other hand, supplemental unemployment income you get from a fund financed by your former employer is similar to W-2 wages. The company withholds income taxes and pays you the net amount.

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About the Author

Emma Watkins writes on finance, fitness and gardening. Her articles and essays have appeared in "Writer's Digest," "The Writer," "From House to Home," "Big Apple Parent" and other online and print venues. Watkins holds a Master of Arts in psychology.

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