Head of household requirements: What to know

As you’re preparing to file your taxes, you may see the term “head of household” under filing status options. The other options are single, married filing jointly, married filing separately and qualifying surviving spouse.

Your filing status affects how your income is taxed. But do you know what filing as head of household actually entails? Keep reading to learn what the head of household filing status means—and the requirements for and benefits of claiming it.

Key takeaways

  • Head of household is one of five filing status options.
  • Your filing status affects how your income is taxed.
  • To file as head of household, you must be unmarried and pay more than half of the household expenses for you and a qualifying person.
  • Filing as head of household might result in a lower tax rate and higher standard deduction than if you file as single or married filing separately.

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What is head of household?

Head of household is a filing status option you can check when you file your taxes. According to the IRS, you can be considered the head of the household if you’re unmarried and pay more than half the cost to maintain the household for you and a qualifying person, like a child.

What are the requirements to file for head of household?

The basic IRS requirements for head of household filing status are that you are unmarried or considered unmarried and pay more than half the cost to maintain the household for you and a qualifying person. But if you have specific questions, it’s a good idea to consult a tax professional.

Requirement No. 1: You are unmarried or are considered unmarried

According to the IRS, you must be unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the tax year to file as head of household. That could mean your marital status is one of the following:

  • Single
  • Divorced
  • Separated

Requirement No. 2: You paid more than half of the household expenses for the year

You must also pay more than half of the household expenses for you and a qualifying person to file as head of household. Household expenses can include things like:

Items that aren’t considered household expenses by the IRS include vacations, life insurance, clothes and transportation.

Requirement No. 3: You provide for a qualifying person

A qualifying person should generally live with you for more than half of the year if you’re filing as head of household, unless they’re your dependent parent, according to the IRS. A qualifying person can include:

  • Your child or grandchild who is single and lived with you for more than half of the tax year.
  • Your father or mother whom you claim as a dependent.
  • Your other relative, like a grandparent or sibling, who lived with you for more than half of the tax year and you claim as a dependent.

Keep in mind that the IRS says that a qualifying person can only be claimed for one taxpayer to use for their head of household filing status. The IRS has more information on its site about the requirements for who is considered a qualifying person.

What are the benefits of filing head of household?

If you meet the requirements and are able to file as head of household, the IRS says your tax rate will typically be lower and you’ll receive a higher standard deduction than if your filing status is single or married filing separately.

Head of household vs. single or married filing separately

You may have more than one option when it comes to your filing status. But if you qualify, filing as head of household could be more beneficial than filing as single or married filing separately. 

A higher standard deduction means less of your income is taxed. Here’s how the standard deductions compare for most taxpayers for the 2023 tax year:

Filing status Standard deduction
Single $13,850
Married filing separately $13,850
Head of household $20,800

Head of household requirements in a nutshell

As you’re preparing to file taxes, you may not be sure which filing status to choose. If you’re unmarried and provide more than half of the household expenses for a qualifying person, you could qualify to file as head of household. And that can result in benefits like a lower tax rate and higher standard deduction. Just remember, it’s a good idea to consult with a tax professional if you have additional questions.

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