Where you live doesn't have anything to do with whether you can claim head of household filing status – as long as you're the one principally supporting the residence. Even beyond that, however, there are many other qualifying factors imposed by the Internal Revenue Service, and for good reason. The difference between filing as a single taxpayer or head of household is a $2,750 deduction from your taxable income as of 2012, and the IRS doesn't give up money easily.
Supporting the Residence
Whether you own your home or rent an apartment, you're not head of household unless you pay at least 51 percent of its costs during the tax year. If you have a roommate with whom you share the costs of the apartment 50/50, you won't qualify. Qualifying costs include the rent, insurance, maintenance and repairs, and utilities. They also include groceries and necessary household items. Things like clothing and transportation don't count.
You must also be unmarried to qualify as head of household, but this requirement isn't as black-and-white as it sounds. If you were once married but aren't divorced yet, you may still qualify if your spouse moved out of your apartment no later than June 30 of the tax year. You'd have to file your tax return separately from her. If you meet these two conditions, it doesn't matter if your divorce isn't final yet.
The most difficult part of qualifying as head of household is that you must have a dependent – another individual who depends on you for his support and who lived with you for more than half the year. A roommate doesn't count unless he meets these requirements as a dependent. If you have a child, your child typically qualifies as your dependent if he lived with you at least half the tax year, or if his other parent has waived the right to allow you to claim him as a dependent. If you provide for more than half your parent's support needs, he can also be your dependent, even if he doesn't actually live with you.
Other Rules for Dependents
Even if your dependent meets all the head of household rules, he still has to meet other IRS rules as a qualifying dependent as well. You have to be able to claim him for the dependent deduction on your tax return to file as head of household. If your dependent is your child, he must be under age 19 at the end of the tax year, 24 if he's a full time student, or any age if he's disabled. If he works or earns income, he can't contribute more than half to his own support. If he's married, he can't file a joint return with his spouse, unless it's only to receive a refund. If your dependent is an adult, he must have less than $3,800 in income during the tax year, although Social Security income typically doesn't count.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.