If you have dependent children or relatives whom you support, you may qualify as head of household. This title is used most often by the Internal Revenue Service, but you may hear it tossed around by other agencies, like your state Department of Revenue when you file state taxes, or by the U.S. Department of Education when you apply for student loans. When you claim this status, it means you’re unmarried and pay more than half the financial support for a qualifying dependent. Agencies base a dependent’s support on several types of basic expenses.
Think of shelter expenses as the basic costs of keeping up a home for your dependent. These include rent or mortgage payments, utilities, food and clothing. You pay these expenses for yourself, so if the dependent lives with you more than half the year, you likely meet the IRS rules of providing a home for your dependent. Shelter expenses are the main costs used to qualify someone as a head of household, but you may be eligible to claim additional dependent expenses.
The head of household commonly foots the bill for dependent medical costs. These include insurance premiums, doctor office co-pays, dental and vision services and the cost of prescriptions. Medical equipment, such as crutches, wheelchairs and braces are included, as are the costs associated with transporting your dependent to and from medical appointments. Expenses for cosmetic surgeries, over-the-counter medicines and gym memberships are not eligible dependent costs.
If you pay higher education costs for your dependent, you can include the cost of his education in your eligible head of household expenses. Private tuition you pay for a dependent’s grade school program is excluded because free public schooling is available for students in these grade levels. However, you can use these expenses to verify you support the child, and use the school’s records to confirm the child lives with you if you’re ever audited by the IRS.
Dependent Care Expenses
If your dependent is under age 13, child care expenses you pay so you can work, or look for work, are legitimate head of household costs. You can also include care costs you incur for children over the age of 13 who are permanently disabled, and the cost of adult care for an older dependent who is unable to care for herself while you’re working or looking for work. These expenses include babysitter, nanny, in-home nurse and assisted living facility fees. Money you pay to a hired housekeeper or cook to maintain the health of your dependent while you’re at work also qualifies as a dependent care expense.
With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.