The filing status you use to file your federal income taxes can have a significant impact on the size of your tax refund. In addition to different tax brackets, each filing status has a different standard deduction. Usually, if you’re not married, you file your taxes as single, but if you have a qualifying person, you may be entitled to use the head of household tax filing status.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
In limited circumstances you can file as head of household even if you don’t claim a dependent on your federal taxes.
Head of Household Rules
Usually, claiming head of household without dependents doesn’t happen because if you’re eligible to file your taxes as head of household, you’re often able to claim your qualifying person as a dependent. For example, if you are claiming a qualifying child as your qualifying person, if your child is married, you must be able to claim an exemption for him in order to file as head of household. Similarly, if you want to use a qualifying parent as your qualifying person, that only works if you can claim an exemption for him. Finally, for other relatives, they only count as a qualifying person for claiming the head of household tax filing status if you can also claim them as your dependent.
Qualifying People You Don’t Need to Claim
However, there are limited situations where you can use someone whom you don’t claim as a dependent as the qualifying person to make you eligible to file your taxes as head of household. For example, if you are using your child as your qualifying person and she is single, you can still use her as your qualifying person. For example, if you are the custodial parent of your child, but the other parent is entitled to claim the child as a dependent on his tax return for the year, and the child meets the other criteria, you can still file as head of household without a dependent.
Dependent Exemptions Eliminated in 2018
The biggest change in 2018 doesn’t have to do with the eligibility for filing as head of household but the value of claiming dependents. Under the new income tax laws, the exemption for dependents you claim is reduced to $0 starting in the 2018 tax year. However, the standard deduction for heads of household has gone up substantially to $18,000, a $6,000 increase over the $12,000 standard deduction for single filers.
2017 Tax Implications
In 2017, each dependent you claimed reduced your taxable income by $4,050. However, the standard deduction for someone filing as head of household was $9,350, only $3,000 higher than the standard deduction for a single filer, which was $6,350.
- IRS: Publication 501 – Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information
- Legal Information Institute: 26 U.S. Code 2 – Definitions and Special Rules
- Legal Information Institute: 26 U.S. Code 151 – Allowance of Deductions for Personal Exemptions
- IRS: In 2017, Some Tax Benefits Increase Slightly Due to Inflation Adjustments, Others Are Unchanged
- Tax Foundation: 2018 Tax Brackets
Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."