Although filing a tax return as head of household is typical for a single parent raising a child alone, this filing status is available to individuals with a variety of living situations. You can file as HOH when you meet the requirements, regardless of other circumstances. If you don’t qualify for HOH but live with a parent, HOH filing by your parent is a possibility.
The first requirement for HOH filing status is that you are unmarried. Even if you are married, you are considered unmarried for HOH purposes if you filed a separate tax return and lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the year. If you lived with a parent, you are eligible for HOH status if you were unmarried on the last day of the year or separated from your spouse for the entire final six months of the year.
Your own child that qualifies you for HOH must have lived with you for half the year even if both of you lived with your parent. In addition, your child must be either under age 19; under 24 and a full-time student; or permanently disabled at any age. Finally, the child cannot have provided more than half of his own support for the year. Meeting these tests allows you to claim the child as a dependent -- although you’re entitled to release this claim to the child’s other parent and still file as HOH.
Eligibility to file as HOH requires that you pay at least half the cost of keeping up your home for the year. Therefore, if you lived with a parent all year, you must determine if you paid for half of the household. You meet the home upkeep requirement if you pay more than your parent did for keeping up the home. The only costs you consider in the calculation are utilities, food consumed at home, repairs, insurance, and rent. If you own the home instead of renting, substitute mortgage interest and real estate taxes for rent.
If you cannot claim HOH because your parent pays more than half the costs of keeping up your home, it's possible that your unmarried parent can claim HOH. Your parent uses your child to qualify for HOH because a grandchild is allowed as a qualifying child. You can still claim the child as a dependent on your tax return. The tax savings for your parent claiming HOH is an opportunity for the entire household to benefit financially.