(Closed) Tax Question: Head of Household or Married Filing Separately?

posted 10 years ago in Money
Post # 3
305 posts
Helper bee

Your friend really needs to consult with an accountant or tax professional, to get advice that is tailored to her personal situation.  At lot of tax preparation places like H&R Block will give you some free tax advice when you go in.

But to answer your question, to the best of my knowledge unless your friend was considered separated from her husband (living apart for at least the last 6 months of the year), she isn’t eligible to claim head of household.  Just because her husband wasn’t working doesn’t mean she can claim head of household.  It’s a tax status reserved for unmarried people with dependents.

Not knowing anymore about her particular situation, I would guess that her best bet would be to file married filing jointly.  Because if her husband didn’t make anything this year, he isn’t exactly eligible for a tax refund which makes married filing separately pointless.  If they file married filling jointly at least she gets the benefit of his personal exemption (unless they can itemize their deductions).

Post # 4
4693 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

From the IRS’s website:

You may be able to file as head of household if you meet all the following requirements.

  1. You are unmarried or “considered unmarried” on the last day of the year.

  2. You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.

  3. A “qualifying person” lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences, such as school). However, if the “qualifying person” is your dependent parent, he or she does not have to live with you. See Special rule for parent , later, under Qualifying Person.


If you qualify to file as head of household, your tax rate usually will be lower than the rates for single or married filing separately. You will also receive a higher standard deduction than if you file as single or married filing separately.

So, it looks like if she’s married she can’t file as head of household.

Post # 5
77 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: December 2011

Hi –

If they live together and are married you can only file as Married filing joint or Married filing separate.  If he is not working married filing joint will probably be a good status because of the tax rates as well as she will get a higher standard deduction and be able to claim two exemptions (one for each spouse)

Post # 7
4136 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: May 2011

she’ll probably be better off filing jointly. tell her to go to a tax seminar – they give free advice.

Post # 8
209 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2010

She can’t consider her husband a dependent.  To have an adult dependent, you need to pass a series of qualifications.  It will DEFINITELY raise a red flag to the IRS if she tried to pass him for a dependent since you have to provide a social security and it’ll pop up that they’re married.  I don’t understand why they don’t want to file married jointly since you’ll probably get more deductions than married filing separately.  There are a lot more tax breaks for married couples filing jointly than filing separately.  They’re essentially losing out on a lot of benefits given to married couples.  I apologize if I’m making assumptions but if the husband has been out of work for a while, I assume they’re not going to be in the highest tax bracket so it’s not like they have special tax circumstances they need to consider.

To reiterate the other posters, they should speak to a tax preparation professional.

Post # 9
523 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: December 2009

Unless there is something strange going on, married filing jointly is what they’d want.  I believe it’s only advantageous to file married filing separately very, very rarely when one spouse has excessive medical or other deductible expenses.  Besides the less advantageous brackets for filing separately, you can’t claim a lot of available deductions when you elect to file separately.

If the only non-standard thing about them is that he didn’t work this year, they would want married filing jointly.  Think of all the couples where he works and she doesn’t–married filing jointly is designed to benefit precisely these couples–where one brings home significantly more income than the other.

Married filing jointly gives you more beneficial brackets for a situation where one person works and the other person doesn’t (or doesn’t very much), moreso than head of household, and far moreso than married filing separately.  Even if she did qualify for head of household, unless something else strange is going on, she almost certainly wouldn’t want to take it.

I’m not a tax professional, but I study tax and am very well versed in basic income taxes, so you can PM me something more specific if you’d like.  I can only give you my personal but educated opinion.

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