A qualifying child is someone whom:
- lives in your home for over half the year (b)
- is your child stepchild adopted child foster child or your sibling/step-sibling (or a descendant of any of these)
- is under 19 years old (or a full-time student under 24) and
- does not provide over half of his or her support during the year. If a child’s parents are divorced a child will still qualify if he meets these tests for the custodial parent even if that parent released his or her right to a dependency exemption for the child to the noncustodial parent).
- is not a married child. They will not be considered “qualifying children” and cannot be claimed by you as a dependent because the child filed jointly on their return or is not a U.S. citizen or resident.
Special “tie breaking” rules will apply if the individual can be a qualifying child of more than one taxpayer and is claimed as a qualifying child by more than one taxpayer. If your household is the principal home of any other relative of yours whom you can claim as your dependent you will also qualify for the head of household status unless you only qualify due to the multiple support rules.
Maintaining a Household
If you live in your household for the tax year and pay over half the cost to run it you are considered to “maintain a household.” When measuring the cost include house-related expenses incurred for the mutual benefit of all house members including property taxes mortgage interest rent utilities insurance on the property repairs and upkeep and food consumed in the home. Don’t include any items such as medical care clothing education life insurance or transportation.
For Parents Only
Under a special rule you can qualify as head of household if you maintain a home for a parent even if you don’t live with the parent. To qualify under this rule you must be able to claim your parent as your dependent.
Head-of-household status can only be claimed if you are unmarried. If you are unmarried but widowed you can use the married filing jointly rate as a “surviving spouse” for two years after the death of your spouse if your dependent child stepchild adopted child or foster child lives with you and you continue to “maintain” the household. Joint rates are more favorable than the head-of-household rates.
Married couples must file either as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” not as head of household. However if you have lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the year and your dependent child stepchild adopted child or foster child is living with you and you maintain the household you are treated as unmarried. If this is the case you may qualify for head of household status.
For more information on what status would be most beneficial to you when filing your taxes contact the tax professionals at Lindemeyer CPA and we will help you file organize and capitalize on the best way to file your tax return.
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