View a different Public Service Bulletin

Chat with an FTB Representative

Head of Household Frequently Asked Questions

Qualifying Person

A qualifying person is a relative, including an eligible foster child, who can qualify you for the head of household filing status. To determine which relatives can qualify you for the status, see the Head of Household Qualification Requirements.

Can my child qualify both parents for the HOH filing status?

No. A child can qualify only one parent for the HOH filing status in a particular taxable year, and that parent must meet all the HOH requirements. (See the Head of Household Qualification Requirements.)

Can I claim my parent/stepparent as my qualifying person for the HOH filing status?

It depends. If you are married or an RDP on the last day of the taxable year, you cannot claim your parent/stepparent as your qualifying person, even if you did not live with your spouse/RDP during the last six months of the taxable year.

If you are unmarried and not an RDP on the last day of the taxable year, you can claim your parent/stepparent as your qualifying person if you are entitled to claim a Dependent Exemption Credit for your parent/stepparent and if you meet all of the qualification requirements. Your parent/stepparent must be a citizen, resident or national of the United States, or a resident of Mexico or Canada. Your parent/stepparent need not live with you as long as you paid more than half the cost of keeping up the home that was your parent’s/stepparent’s main home for the entire taxable year.

See FTB Pub. 1540, California Head of Household Filing Status, for more information. To order FTB Pub. 1540 see the assistance information on page 2. 

Gross Income

Generally, gross income for HOH purposes only includes income that is taxable for federal income tax purposes. It does not include nontaxable income such as welfare benefits or the nontaxable portion of social security benefits. Get IRS publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, at irs.gov if you need more information.

Full-Time Student

Full-time students are those who attended school for some part of at least five calendar months during the year. The school must have a:

Regular teaching staff.
Course of study.
Regularly enrolled student body in attendance.

The student must enroll in the number of hours or courses the school considers as full-time attendance. If the student enrolls in a full-time on-farm training course, then a school, state, or state political subdivision must provide the course.
Schools include primary and secondary schools as well as technical schools, colleges, and universities.

Time/Dates Qualifying Person Was in the Home

To claim the HOH filing status, your child must have lived with you for more than 50 percent of the taxable year. If your child did not live in your home more than half of the taxable year, you may qualify for the Credit for Joint Custody Head of Household.

See the Personal Income Tax Booklet (540/540A Booklet) to determine if you qualify for this credit.

In figuring the amount of time our son lived with me, can I count the time he lived with my spouse and me before we separated?

If And Then
You and your spouse separated during the period January 1 to  June 30 You were still married at the end of the year Count only half of the time that you, your spouse, and your son lived together and all the time you and your son lived together without your spouse.
If And Then
You and your spouse separated during the period July 1 to December 31 You were still married at the end of the year You cannot qualify for HOH filing status because to be considered unmarried, you must have lived apart from your spouse at all times during the last six months of the year.
If And Then
You and your spouse separated during the year You were legally separated by the end of the year You can count half of the time that you, your spouse, and your son lived together and all the time you and your son lived together without your spouse.

These same rules apply to registered domestic partners.

Eligible Foster Child

I lived with my girlfriend and her child during the year. Can I consider the child as my stepchild or eligible foster child and claim the HOH filing status using the child as my qualifying person?

No. Because you were never married to the child’s parent, the child is not your stepchild. Likewise, the child is not an eligible foster child because only a child who is placed with you by an authorized placement agency or by judgment, decree, or another order of a court can qualify as your eligible foster child.

However, you may be eligible to claim a Dependent Exemption Credit for the child if the child meets all the requirements.

See FTB Pub. 1540, California Head of Household Filing Status, for more information on claiming a Dependent Exemption Credit.

To order FTB Pub. 1540, see the assistance information on page 2.

Dates You Lived With a Spouse/RDP

My spouse and I were separated from the beginning of the tax year until November, when we reconciled. Since we were separated for more than six months of the year, can I still file using the HOH filing status?

No. Because you were married on the last day of the year, you must live apart from your spouse for the entire last six months of the taxable year to qualify for the HOH filing status. Since you lived with your spouse during a part of the last six months of the taxable year, you do not qualify for the HOH filing status.

My registered domestic partner (RDP) and I lived together with my son until July 21. Can I claim the HOH filing status on my tax return since I was not legally married?

No. The rules for RDPs are similar to those for married taxpayers. For California head of household purposes, a taxpayer who was an RDP as of the last day of the tax year must meet the requirements to be “considered not in a registered domestic partnership.” One requirement is that RDPs do not live together at any time during the last six months of the year. Since you and your RDP lived together during the first three weeks of July, you do not meet this requirement.

See FTB Pub. 1540, California Head of Household Filing Status, for more information see the assistance information on page 2.

For more information on RDPs, get FTB Pub. 737, Tax Information for Registered Domestic Partners, at ftb.ca.gov.