What Does Filing as Head of Household Mean for Your Taxes?

A better tax rate and higher deductions are two benefits

There is no tax filing status that confuses taxpayers more than the one called "head of household". When you hear the term, what comes to mind? The breadwinner? The main source of household income? To the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it's not that simple. There are many rules that determine who can file their taxes under the head of household status.

Key Takeaways

  • The head of household designation can help maximize tax savings with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • There are key requirements for filing head of household—including being unmarried, paying more than half the costs of supporting the household, and living with a qualifying family member for who you pay more than half the support.
  • Married taxpayers are not eligible to claim the head-of-household status—you must be single or in some stage of separation.
  • For heads of household, the standard deduction is $18,800 for 2021 ($19,4000 for 2022), versus $12,550 for 2021 ($12,950) for those filing single.
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Filing Your Taxes As Head of Household

The Guidelines for Filing as Head of Household

While this status can maximize your tax savings, you must ensure that you follow IRS guidelines fully in order to avoid a potential IRS inquiry or audit. For starters, you can't be married. Here is a look at what filing as head of household means for your taxes and who is eligible to file under this status.

In order to file as head of household, you must meet several requirements:

  • Be unmarried
  • Pay more than half of the costs of supporting your household
  • Live with other qualifying family members for whom you provide support for more than half of the year. Some examples of qualifying family members include a dependent child, grandchild, brother, sister, grandparent, or anyone else you can claim as an exemption.

If you do not meet all of these requirements, you are not eligible to claim the head-of-household filing status.

Stipulations for Married Taxpayers

Married taxpayers are not eligible to claim the head-of-household status. You must be single or in some stage of separation.

According to the IRS, you are considered unmarried if you are single, legally separated by divorce, or have lived apart from your spouse for six months or more in the calendar year.

A Note on Dependents

In order to file as head of household, you must provide at least 50% of the care received by a dependent, such as a child, parent, brother, sister, step-parent, step-sibling, foster child, half-relative, or any other relative for which you can claim an exemption.

It is wise to have supporting documentation to prove your claim, should the IRS inquire for further information.

Significant Financial Benefits for Heads of Household

If you qualify for head-of-household filing status, there are significant financial benefits in store for you. Not only will you receive a much more favorable tax rate than you would if you were to file as a single taxpayer, but taxpayers who file as head of household can claim a much higher standard deduction when filing their taxes.

The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly for tax year 2021 is $25,100 ($25,900 for 2021). For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction is $12,550 ($12,950 for 2022). For heads of household, the standard deduction is $18,800 ($19,400 for 2022).

The Bottom Line

Prior to filing as head of household, be sure to review the IRS guidelines carefully to avoid an audit or hard inquiry in the future.

While you may consider yourself as the head of your household, your definition and the IRS's definition may vary significantly. Most questions regarding the head of household filing status can be found online at irs.gov, or you can call the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-1040.

Article Sources

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  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2022." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Filing Status." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.