What Is Head of Household?

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Head of household is a tax filing status for unmarried people with qualifying dependents who were responsible for more than half of their household expenses during the year. Selecting the head of household filing status can lower your tax rate and raise your standard deduction.

Key Takeaways

  • Filing taxes as a head of household offers more advantages than filing taxes as a single filer.
  • Head of household filers have wider tax brackets and larger standard deductions than single taxpayers.
  • To be eligible for head of household status you need to be unmarried, pay for more than half of your household expenses, and support a qualifying dependent.

How Head of Household Works

There are five options for filing status offered by the IRS. Head of household is one of the two options available to unmarried tax filers. In most cases, filing as a head of household will lower your overall tax rate, your capital gains tax rate  and offer you a larger standard deduction compared to single filers.

Wider Tax Brackets 

A tax bracket is an income range that determines your tax rate. Your tax rate increases as your income increases. Wider tax brackets for the head of household status means that the tax rate for some or all of your income will likely be lower than other filing statuses with the same income.

Here are the tax brackets for 2022:

Tax Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Head of Household
10% $0 to $10,275 $0 to $20,550 $0 to $14,650
12% $10,276 to $41,775 $20,551 to $83,550 $14,651 to $55,900
22% $41,776 to $89,075 $83,551 to $178,150 $55,901 to $89,050
24% $89,076 to $170,050 $178,151 to $340,100 $89,051 to $170,050
32% $170,051 to $215,950 $340,101 to $431,900 $170,051 to $215,950
35% $215,951 to $539,900 $431,901 to $647,850 $215,951 to $539,900
37% More than $539,900 More than $647,850 More than $539,900

Larger Standard Deduction

You can either claim the standard deduction or you can take itemized deductions. If you claim the standard deduction, that’s the amount by which you can reduce your taxable income and therefore the amount of tax you have to pay. Your standard deduction depends on your filing status and normally, filing as head of household has a slight advantage over single filers.

Filing Status 2022 Deductions 2023 Deductions
Single $12,950 $13,850
Head of Household $19,400 $20,800
Married Filing Jointly $25,900 $27,700
Married Filing Separately $12,950 $13,850
Qualifying Widow(er) $25,900 $27,700

More Leeway in Capital Gains Tax

You pay capital gains tax on profits you make from the sale of a capital asset such as an investment. Gains from assets held for less than a year are treated as short-term gains and are taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Thanks to wider tax brackets, those rates are more beneficial for head of household filers than single filers.

Investments held over 12 -months are treated as long-term capital gains and are taxed at rates lower than ordinary income tax rates. Long-term capital gains tax brackets also give head of household filers an advantage over single and separate filers.

0% Capital Gains Tax in 2022 0% Capital Gains Tax in 2023 15% Capital Gains in 2022 15% Capital Gains Tax in 2023
Single $41,675 $44,625 $459,750 $492,300
Head of Household $55,800 $59,750 $488,500 $523,050
Married Filing Jointly $83,350 $89,250 $517,200 $553,850
Married Filing Separately $41,675 $44,625 $258,600 $276,900

Eligibility For Head of Household Filing Status

Filing taxes as a head of household means that you’ve met all of the following qualifications laid out by the IRS:

  1. You’re unmarried, considered unmarried as of the last day of the year, or not in a registered domestic partnership.
  2. You have a qualifying child or relative who’s lived with you for more than half the year.
  3. You paid more than half of the costs for maintaining a home. 


You can’t file as head of household just because you make the most money in your household. This filing status is only meant for people whose income goes toward the expenses of maintaining a residence and supporting their dependents. If you choose this status but don’t qualify, your tax return could get denied.

Who Is a Qualifying Person?

Not just anyone can be considered a qualifying person either. The IRS provides specific guidance on who fits into this category in Publication 501, Table 4. 

Your children, grandchildren, and parents can be considered qualifying persons if they meet certain criteria. Other relatives that don’t have to live with you such as niece or nephew, uncle or aunt, and in-laws may also be considered qualifying persons for the purpose of the head of household status.


A foster parent or a spouse cannot be classified as a qualifying person. If you’re divorced, you cannot claim a child as a qualifying relative if you are the noncustodial parent.

What Costs Are Included in Maintaining A Home?

To figure out if you’re truly responsible for more than half of the household expenses, you have to know what expenses to include in your calculations. Here’s what’s typically included:

  • Rent
  • Mortgage interest
  • Real estate taxes
  • Home insurance
  • Repairs and home maintenance
  • Utilities
  • Food eaten in the home 

On the flip side, you shouldn’t be including costs like clothing, vacation, education or medical treatment. 


For a little more guidance on determining your filing status, you can use the IRS filing status tool to help you out. From there you can select the status that’s accurate for you when filing tax returns on your own or hiring a tax professional to complete it for you. 

Example of Head of Household

To truly understand how the head of household status works, let’s use some examples.

Example 1:

Let’s say you’re a single parent who never married. You have one 10-year-old child who lives with you for the entire year except for when they attend summer camp each year for one month.

Your roommate covers half of the monthly rent, but you cover the other half of the rent plus the utility bill, groceries, and home insurance. You would be considered head of household since you cover the majority of the household expenses. YPlus your qualifying person would be your young child. 

Example 2:

In another scenario, you’re recently divorced and your ex-spouse moved out of the home seven months ago. During the divorce, your spouse was designated as the custodial parent so your child doesn’t live with you.

Early in the year, your mother moved into your home due to her health problems and she’s now considered your dependent. You cover 100% of the expenses associated with the home.

While your child might not be a qualifying person, your mother is since she’s a dependent relative. As long as you were considered unmarried by the last day of the year, you’d fulfill the unmarried requirement for head of household. With 100% of the home costs coming from your income, you would qualify for the head of household status. 

Head of Household vs. Single Filers

Someone who’s unmarried could potentially file as single or head of household, but there are a few differences between the two filing statuses that you’ll want to know before opting for one over the other.


Head of household was designed to provide a tax break for people who shoulder the majority of costs for running a household along with paying for their dependents' expenses. 

Head of Household Filers
  • Need to meet three requirements to be eligible

  • Usually has lower income tax brackets

  • For heads of households, the standard deduction limits for tax years 2022 and 2023 are $19,400 and $20,800 respectively.

  • For the same income, head of households pay capital gains tax at a lower rate compared to single filers.

Single Filers
  • No requirements other than being unmarried

  • Usually has higher income tax brackets

  • For single taxpayers, the standard deduction limits from tax years 2022 and 2023 are $12,950 and  $13,850 respectively.

  • For the same income, single filers pay capital gains tax at a higher rate compared to head of households.

To file as a head of household, you’ll need to meet certain requirements. Filing as a single taxpayer is for unmarried people who don’t fit into another tax status. There aren’t any other requirements to file as single other than being unmarried. 

Most times filing as single means that you’ll pay more in taxes compared to a head of household taxpayer with the same income. 

For example, under the 2023 tax brackets, a taxpayer with $50,000 in taxable income under a head of household filing status would be taxed at a rate of 12%. A taxpayer filing as single who makes $50,000 annually would be taxed at a rate of 22%. 

While the lower tax brackets are more generous to head-of-household filers, once you surpass a taxable income of $59,850 the tax rates begin to even out.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What qualifies a person as head of household?

You must meet three criteria to qualify for the head of household filing status. You need to be unmarried, pay more than half the household’s costs and be responsible for supporting a dependent qualifying person for more than half the year.

What is the difference between the head of household and single filing statuses?

The main difference between head of household and single are the eligibility requirements. There aren’t any requirements to file as single other than being unmarried. Meanwhile, head of household has to meet three specific requirements—you’re unmarried, pay for more than half the cost of maintaining a home, and support a qualifying dependent for more than half the year.

Can only one person be head of household?

The IRS makes the distinction that there can only be one head of household, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one head of household per physical home. It refers to the economic entity. 

For example, if two different families exist under one roof, but have completely separate lives and finances, then those two people might be able to claim head of household at the same address.

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