If I lived apart from my spouse from July 10 to December 31 but wasn't legally separated from my spouse under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance at the end of the year, can I file as head of household? Will my filing status allow me to claim a credit for childcare expenses and the earned income tax credit if I have a qualifying child?

Answer:

No, you can't file as head of household because you weren't legally separated from your spouse or considered unmarried at the end of the tax year. To be considered unmarried at the end of a tax year, your spouse may not be a member of your household for the last 6 months of the tax year and you must meet other requirements.

Your filing status for the year will be either married filing separately or married filing jointly.

  • If you use the married filing separately filing status, you can't claim the earned income tax credit. You also cannot claim the credit for childcare expenses since you weren’t considered unmarried. Both credits require married taxpayers to file a joint return to be eligible for the credit.
  • You may be eligible to claim these credits if you decide to file a joint return with your spouse.

See What is My Filing Status? and Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction and Filing Information for information about filing status.

Subcategory:

If the parents of a year-old child never married but live together with the child for the tax year, and both contribute to the cost of maintaining the household for the child and themselves, may they both file as head of household?

Answer:

No, only one parent may claim the child as a qualifying child to file as head of household.

  • To file as head of household you must furnish over one-half of the cost of maintaining the household for you and a qualifying person. Therefore, only one of the parents will have contributed more than one-half of the cost of maintaining the household and be eligible to file as head of household.
  • If both parents claim the child as a qualifying child, there is a tie-breaker rule to determine which parent may claim the child. See Qualifying Child of More Than One Person for more information.

 

Subcategory:

To qualify for head of household filing status, do I have to claim my child as a dependent?

Answer:

Generally, to qualify for head of household filing status, you must have a qualifying child or a dependent. However, a custodial parent may be eligible to claim head of household filing status based on a child even if he or she released a claim to exemption for the child. See Noncustodial parent is claiming an exemption for my child; do I still qualify as head of household?

Subcategory:

I am divorced with one child. This year my ex-spouse, who is the noncustodial parent, is entitled to claim an exemption for our child. Do I still qualify as head of household?

Answer:

You may still qualify for head of household filing status even though you aren't entitled to claim an exemption for your child, if you meet the following requirements:

  1. You're not married or you’re considered unmarried on the last day of the year.
  2. You paid more than half of the cost of keeping up a home, that was your home and the main home of your child for more than one-half of the year.

See Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction and Filing Information for details.

Additional Information:

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