Common Reasons You May Not Qualify for The Head of Household (HOH) Filing Status
Remember to read the definitions of all of the linked terms.
- The qualifying person does not meet the gross income test
Starting with the 2005 tax year, many adult children no longer qualify taxpayers for head of household filing status. An unmarried child who is 19 years of age or older and not a student, and whose gross income is equal to or greater than the federal exemption amount for the year no longer qualifies an unmarried taxpayer for head of household filing status. These adult children exceed the age requirement to be a qualifying child and they earn more income than the gross income test allows, which eliminates them as a qualifying relative.
The gross income issue is the most common denial reason in the head of household audit program.
- The taxpayer lived with his or her spouse during the last six months
of the year
If a married taxpayer lives with his or her spouse at any time during the last six months of the year, the taxpayer is not considered unmarried for head of household purposes. Until the taxpayer receives a final decree of divorce or legal separation, the taxpayer is married. Even if the taxpayer files a petition for divorce or legal separation, or lives apart from his or her spouse, neither occurrence holds the same standing as a legal divorce or separation under a final decree.
A married taxpayer who does not meet the requirements to be considered unmarried does not qualify for head of household filing status.
- The qualifying person did not live with the taxpayer for more than
half the year
The taxpayer's qualifying person must live with the taxpayer for more than half the year. If the qualifying person did not live with the taxpayer for more than half the year, the taxpayer does not qualify for the head of household filing status. More than half the year is 183 days; in a leap year it is 184 days.
- A married taxpayer claimed a parent or relative as his or her qualifying
Some married taxpayers claim a parent or a relative, other than a child, as their qualifying person. By law, taxpayers who are legally married as of the last day of the year can only claim their child as their qualifying person. The child can be a birth child, stepchild, adopted child, or an eligible foster child.
- Taxpayers claimed a nonrelative as a qualifying person
Taxpayers sometimes claim a cousin or the child of a friend as their qualifying person. Neither person can qualify a taxpayer for head of household filing status. The law specifies a finite list of relationships for head of household. The list does not include cousins or unrelated children, except for children who meet the requirements to be an eligible foster child.