The way the IRS sees it, for federal income tax purposes you're either married or you're single, but if you are a single mom you might be able to claim the more advantageous head of household status. You have to maintain a home for your child, before you can claim this status, but that doesn't mean you have to be a homeowner. You can claim head of household whether your rent or own your home.
If you are legally married according to the laws of your state as of the last day of the year, you can't claim "head of household." You have to be single -- that is, never married, legally divorced or widowed, -- you must be considered unmarried by the IRS. The IRS considers you unmarried if your spouse did not live with you for the last six months of the year, your child lived with you in your home for at least half of the year, and you paid more than half of the cost of maintaining that home. You can't file a joint return, and you must be able to claim your child as a dependent.
Keeping a Home
To qualify as head of household you have to pay more than half of the cost of keeping the home up.The IRS considers any property that has sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities to be a home. That could be a house, apartment, mobile home, house boat, house trailer or condo. There is no requirement for you to own the home.
Costs of Keeping House
When it comes to figuring out how much it cost to keep up your home, add up the total expenses for rent, utilities, routine maintenance, repairs, groceries, renter's insurance and any other expenses that are customary in your area for keeping house. Divide that figure in half. As long you you paid more than that amount, you meet this requirement for filing as head of household.
You might be a single mom and pay more than half the cost of keeping a home, but you still need a qualifying person to live with you in your home before you can qualify as head of household. The qualifying person doesn't have to be your child unless your are relying on the "considered unmarried" rule. For example, you could claim a dependent parent as your qualifying person.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.