All Things Tax

All Things Tax

Like the title says, from the filing process and tax questions to tax policy and reform, you can search and share All Things Tax here. This is the place to find answers to all your general questions that don't fall under the other categories. And just a reminder: questions about software or online filing should be posted in DIY Products.

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Pioneer
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎11-20-2017

Head of Household status

I have seen on several websites, but need additional clarification.

 

My wife and I got married 2 months ago (2017) We have never lived together, don't share children, nor any expenses. Can one, or both of us claim Head of Household? Are there any differences from previous years that are going to affect our filing status, now that we're married, even if we can claim HoH? Thank you in advance!

Tax Pro
Posts: 5,780
Registered: ‎02-23-2016

Re: Head of Household status

Hi MountainMan1979,

 

 

Welcome to the H&R Block community.

 

First, congrats on your marriage.

 

When you become legally married before the end of the year the head of household filing status is no longer an option.  You can file using either the "married & filing jointly" status or the "married & filing separately" status.

 

Filing jointly with your spouse is almost always the more beneficial option.  When you file jointly you get a bigger standard deduction, multiple exemptions on the same tax return, a lower tax rate, more generous phase-outs & limits on different credits & other things, and much more.

 

If you file using the "married & filing separately" status you can still claim the child tax credit if you have a child, but you will lose practically all other tax credits.  The income phase-out on the child tax credit is also much lower when filing separately than it is for any other filing status.  Another disadvantage to filing separately is that if one of you itemizes your deductions on Schedule A then the other must do the same rather than take the standard deduction even if their Schedule A deductions are zero.  The tax rate for the MFS status is also higher than that for any other status, and there are other disadvantages as well.

 

The only time that there's a chance that the MFS status might be advantageous is when one or both spouses have an income in excess of $75,000 (a high income).  This is because filing separately when one or both of you have high enough incomes may drop one or both of you into a lower tax bracket thus resulting in less tax.  However, you'll still want to compare both options before filing MFS.

 

If you ever end up in a situation where you separate from your spouse (although hopefully that never happens) then the head of household status would be an option again if you have a qualifying child and if certain criteria are met, even if you're still legally married at the time.

 

 

If you have any other questions I'll be glad to help.

 

Louis,

Senior Tax Advisor (Tampa, FL)

Pioneer
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎11-20-2017

Re: Head of Household status

That is how I’ve always understood it, however according to the IRS publication https://www.irs.gov/publications/p504#en_US_2016_publink1000175861 it would appear that you can be considered “unmarried” if you and your spouse have lived apart for more than 6 months (we’ve never lived together) and if either party pays more than half of their house upkeep (our financials are completely separate). Am I reading this wrong?
Tax Pro
Posts: 5,780
Registered: ‎02-23-2016

Re: Head of Household status

MountainMan1979,

 

 

The rule you're looking at is the exception to filing MFS when you become separated but you are not yet legally divorced.  If you are separated (as in getting divorced and you have no intention of staying together/married) and you lived apart for at least the last six months of the year, and if you paid more than 50% of the upkeep for your household, and if you have a qualifying child then you can file as a head of household instead of MFS.

 

If you have no intention of separating (as in divorcing) though and you are legally married as of December 31st then it's either MFJ or MFS.