MoneyLife

Head of Household vs Single – How Should You File Your Taxes

By Anna Yen
Head of Household

Given that the pandemic has changed household finances, you might be looking for the best way to keep your hard-earned money. Maximizing tax deductions can be tricky with the maze of IRS rules and regulations. Depending on your family size and income, you can choose a filing status that suits your needs. Make the wrong choice and you could face higher tax rates and missed deductions. To navigate complex tax laws, consult a local tax professional, or use an online tax service like 1040 that lets you file taxes for just $25. 

What qualifies a person as Head of Household?

Filing as Head of Household involves more than just checking off a box. You must meet several requirements to claim this status. 

To qualify for Head of Household status, you must:

  • Be unmarried
  • Pay at least 50% of the costs of maintaining a household
  • Have a qualifying dependent who lives in your household, and you provide their support for at least 50% of the year

To file using the Head of Household status, you must meet all of the requirements above. If you miss just one, you need to file your tax return using single status. 

It’s a good idea to document how you meet Head of Household rules. The IRS could challenge the status of your tax return.  If you can’t show that you’ve met all of the requirements under the Head of Household test, the IRS could change your status to single. And you’ll pay more taxes as a result. 

Can I claim Head of Household without dependents?

Normally to qualify as Head of Household you would have a child dependent. However, it is often possible to file as Head of Household without claiming dependents. This usually happens when a noncustodial parent has the right to claim a child as a dependent. 

Even if you aren’t entitled to claim your child as a dependent, you can file as Head of Household as long as you’re unmarried, paid for more than half the home cost with your child, and your child is your qualifying person. 

Who is considered a Qualifying Person?

A qualifying person is a child, parent, or relative who helps you meet requirements for Head of Household filing status. In general, a qualifying person is a child under 19 years old who lives with you at least half of the year. A child under 24 years old who is away at college would also qualify.

A qualifying person doesn’t have to be a child. If you provide more than half of the support for a parent, they may meet this definition as well – even if they don’t live with you. This may also apply to other family members, such as siblings and in-laws.

How do I file taxes if I’m married to a nonresident alien spouse?

Carefully consider your tax filing status if your spouse is a nonresident alien. Choosing the wrong status can trigger higher tax rates, lost deductions, and even expanded reporting requirements.

When you are married to a nonresident alien, you will fall under a married or Head of Household tax status. 

  • Married Filing Single – If you report your spouse on your tax return and don’t have any dependents, you would select Married Filing Single. You may pay a higher tax rate and miss out on some deductions with this status, but it may be your only option if you don’t have a qualifying dependent.
  • Head of Household – If you have a qualifying person that is not your nonresident alien spouse, you may qualify for Head of Household status. You still need to meet the IRS rules for having a qualifying person, including paying for more than half of that dependent’s home. Qualifying for Head of Household status can get you lower tax rates and more deductions.
  • Married Filing Joint – You can choose to treat your spouse as a U.S. resident when filing your tax return. However, you and your spouse must then include global income on your tax returns.  

Single tax filing status

Single tax filers are unmarried and don’t qualify for any other filing status. The IRS bases your marital status on the last day of the year. If you get divorced at any time during the year, you are considered unmarried and file as single on your tax return. 

If you are legally separated from your spouse and lived apart for at least six months during the year, the IRS considers your status to be Single. 

Is it better to file Single or Head of Household?

Filing as Head of Household gives you more tax benefits than filing with single status. Head of Household filing status has lower rates and a larger deduction. However, you need to be single or unmarried and pay for more than half the cost of supporting a qualifying person. If you are a single parent or take care of dependents, investigate which tax status maximizes your tax savings. 

As a reminder, be sure that you follow the IRS guidelines. Choosing the wrong one can be a costly mistake if the IRS decides that you don’t qualify. You’ll pay back any tax savings, along with penalties and interest.  

Save money by picking the right tax filing status

Choosing between Head of Household or single status can be tricky. Different living situations can push you toward one status or another. Pick the wrong status, and it can cost you time and money while filing taxes during covid-19

If you are unsure which filing status you qualify for, consider filing your federal and state tax returns using 1040.com. Their powerful walkthrough technology lets you answer a series of questions to reveal which filing status you meet. Plus, it can help identify deductions and credits. If you aren’t a tax expert or don’t plan to scan through tax code on the IRS website, this feature can save you time and money. 

You can file your federal and state tax returns for just $25 at 1040.com. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how many forms you need to complete; 1040.com has a one price guarantee. 

Getting started is easy and costs nothing. Just create an account and begin entering in your information. 1040 is mobile-friendly and a great place to store your tax returns if you need them in the future.  It even saves you a little time by importing your W-2. 

When you open a RoarMoney account with MoneyLion, you can get your tax refund fast and easy up to two days earlier. For only $1 monthly, you get early paychecks, no minimum balance, and no overdraft fees.  You’ll even get price protection on purchases, making sure you keep more money in your pocket.

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