Tax News
Head of Household Guidelines

Some of your clients may inquire about using the head of household filing status. This filing status provides a lower tax liability and a higher standard deduction than the single filing status. Although many of your clients may think of themselves as the head of their household, they may not qualify for this filing status under state and federal tax laws.

To qualify for this filing status the taxpayer must meet all of the following requirements:

  • The taxpayer was unmarried and not a registered domestic partner (RDP) or met the requirements to be considered unmarried or considered not in a registered domestic partnership as of the last day of the tax year.
  • The taxpayer paid more than one-half the costs of keeping up his or her home for the year.
  • The taxpayer’s home was the main home for the taxpayer and a qualifying person who lived with the taxpayer for more than one-half the year. For limited exceptions to this rule, see the discussions regarding for Parent/Stepparent (Father or Mother) and Temporary Absence in FTB Publication 1540, California Head of Household Filing Status.
  • The qualifying person was related to the taxpayer and met the requirements to be a qualifying child or qualifying relative.
  • Generally, the taxpayer was entitled to a Dependent Exemption Credit for his or her qualifying person. However, under limited circumstances, the taxpayer does not have to be entitled to a Dependent Exemption Credit for his or her qualifying child. See Publication 1540 and our law summary, Head of Household Filing Status, Taxpayer Unmarried and Not in a Registered Domestic Partnership, Applicable to Tax Years 2007 and Thereafter, Section B.1.e.
  • The taxpayer was not a nonresident alien at any time during the year.

There are several resources available to assist you in determining if your client qualifies for head of household:

  • The 2012 personal income tax instruction booklets for Forms 540/540A and 540 2EZ contain the general rules for using the head of household filing status.
  • FTB Publication 1540, California Head of Household Filing Status provides detailed information on the filing status.
  • For HOH in Spanish, see FTB Publication 1540SPAN, Estado Civil de Cabeza de Familia de California.
  • You can also access the same comprehensive information online on our HOH Webpage.
  • The HOH self-test available online at ftb.ca.gov and search HOH self test.
  • The Practitioners Corner webpage, provides more information about the topics covered in our HOH seminar. See FTB 1585, Head of Household Workshop Supplement and our PowerPoint presentation in the June 2008 issue of Tax News.
  • Our law summary, Head of Household Filing Status, Taxpayer Unmarried and Not In a Registered Domestic Partnership, Applicable to Tax Years 2007 and Thereafter.

By using these resources and the HOH self-test to determine eligibility, taxpayers may avoid a denial of their head of household filing status and an assessment of additional tax plus interest.

Tip for taxpayers filing electronically: By filing Form 4803e (HOH Questionnaire Form) with your client’s electronic return, most electronic filers can avoid receiving in the mail a HOH Audit Letter that requests information about their head of household filing status. However, they may receive a HOH Audit Letter, if the Form 4803e information is incomplete or contains conflicting information.

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