Being the main provider for a household does not automatically entitle someone to file as a Head of Household. Who and how an individual meets the qualifications for Head of Household status is determined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), under United States Code 26, and described in their publications and regulations. Head of Household definitions and special rules are described in Treasury Regulations, Subchapter A, Section 1.2-2(b).
In general the qualifications for filing as Head of Household will depend on three areas of consideration. They are:
1. Marital Status:
IRS Publications 501: Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, and 504: Divorced or Separated Individuals, state that a Head of Household taxpayer must be single, or considered unmarried due to separation or divorce on the last day of the tax year, December 31st. IRS Publication 504, section Filing Status, defines a marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
2. Amount of Financial Support to a Household:
A Head of Household taxpayer must provide more than 50 percent of expenses directly related to a home. These expenses would include rent or mortgage interest and property tax, utilities, home repairs and maintenance, home or renter insurance, and food for the house. IRS Publication 501 has a worksheet on page 8 titled: Cost of Keeping up a Home to help determine what percentage someone has provided towards household expenses.
3. Qualifying Relatives to Support a Head of Household Filing Status:
Table 4 on page 10 of IRS Publication 501 is a chart that defines who is a qualifying person that will qualify someone to file as Head of Household. There is a detailed list of relationships from direct bloodlines and through marriage. There are two exceptions to the residency rule requiring a qualifying relative to live with a Head of Household taxpayer for more than 6 months of a tax year.
a. Temporary Absences: Someone can be temporarily absent for reasons of education, illness, military duty, and even for a kidnapped minor by other than a relative. The assumption is that the absent individual would have been in residence if not for the temporary status and that the absent individual will return to the residence after the absence.
b. Support of a Parent: A person providing more than 50 percent of the daily expenses of a parent can file as a Head of Household even if the parent does not reside with the taxpayer. This ruling is also valid when the parent is in a nursing home or assisted living facility.