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Tax News
 Guidelines for claiming head of household

The filing season is just around the corner. Many of your clients will inquire about claiming the head of household filing status. Although many of your clients think of themselves as the head of their household, they may not qualify for this filing status under state and federal tax laws. The head of household filing status is for taxpayers who are either unmarried and not a registered domestic partner (RDP) or meet the requirements to be considered unmarried or considered not in a registered domestic partnership and maintain a home for a relative who generally lived with them for more than half the year. 

To qualify for this filing status the taxpayer must meet all of the following requirements as of the last day of the tax year:

  • The taxpayer was unmarried and not an RDP, or met the requirements to be considered unmarried or considered not in a registered domestic partnership on the last day of the year.
  • The taxpayer paid more than one-half the costs of keeping up their home for the year.
  • The taxpayer’s home was the main home for the taxpayer and a qualifying person who lived with the taxpayer for more than half the year. Please see the legal definitions for Parent (father or mother) and Temporary Absence in FTB Publication 1540 for exceptions to this rule.
  • The qualifying person was related to the taxpayer and met the requirements to be a qualifying child or qualifying relative.
  • The taxpayer was entitled to a dependent exemption credit for their qualifying person. However, the taxpayer does not have to be entitled to a dependent exemption credit for their qualifying child if the taxpayer was unmarried and not an RDP, and the taxpayer’s qualifying child was also unmarried and not an RDP.
  • The taxpayer was not a nonresident alien at any time during the year.

There are several resources available to assist you in determining if your client qualifies for head of household filing status.

  • The 2008 personal income tax instruction booklets for Forms 540/540A and 5402EZ contain the general rules for using the head of household filing status.
  • For detailed information, refer to FTB Publication 1540, California Head of Household Filing Status. FTB Publication 1540SPAN is our Spanish version.
  • You can also access the same comprehensive information FTB Publication 1540 provides on our HOH Webpage.
  • Under the Practitioners Corner Webpage, you can find more information about the topics covered in our HOH seminar, see FTB 1585, Head of Household Workshop Supplement and our PowerPoint presentation in the June 2008 issue of Tax News.

By reviewing these resources and using the self-test to determine eligibility, most taxpayers can avoid a denial of their head of household filing status, and an assessment of additional tax plus interest.

For your clients who file electronically, we highly recommend that they also file Form 4803e with their electronic return. By filing Form 4803e, most electronic filers can avoid later receiving a HOH Audit Letter. They may, however, still receive a follow-up audit letter if they provide incomplete or conflicting information.

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