Can I File Head of Household if I Didn't Make a Lot of Money?

Only unmarried people can file as head of household.

Only unmarried people can file as head of household.

If you're unmarried at the end of the year, you don't automatically have to file your taxes as single. Even if you don't have a lot of money, you can file as head of household, which can decrease your tax liability and increase some of your tax credits. You need enough income, however, to maintain the household and support at least one qualifying person.

Cost of Keeping Up a Home

The only directly financial-related requirement for filing your taxes as head of household is that you must pay at least half the cost of keeping up a home for the year. Costs of keeping up a home include mortgage or rent, real estate taxes, utilities, repairs, food consumed at home and home insurance. Don't include other costs, such as clothing, medical care or entertainment. For example, if the total costs of keeping up your home are $17,000, you would have to pay at least $8,500 to meet the criteria for head of household.

Expenses You Pay

You can only include the expenses that you pay when calculating the cost of keeping up a home. If you receive public assistance payments, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, you have to include those costs as part of the expenses of keeping up your home, but you cannot include your aid money toward expenses that you paid. For example, if you received $10,000 in public assistance and you paid $7,000 out of pocket, you do not qualify as head of household.

Qualifying Person

You also need to have to have a qualifying person live with you -- unless your qualifying individual is a parent -- to file as head of household. If the person is your qualifying child and is unmarried, he counts as your qualifying person even if you don't claim an exemption for him. If the person is your qualifying relative, he only counts if you can claim an exemption for him and he lived with you for at least half the year.

Exemptions

Your income might affect whether you can claim someone as a dependent relative or dependent child. For dependent relatives, you have to provide more than half of that person's support during the year. If you don't have significant income, you might not meet that test. For dependent children, the child can't provide more than half his own income, so your income doesn't matter. For example, if the child provides 30 percent of his own support, you provide 10 percent, and government assistance provides the remaining 60 percent, you can still claim him as a dependent child. However, he wouldn't qualify as a dependent relative.

About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

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