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Who can file as HOH?


Janitor Bob
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unmarried parents of one child live together all year with that child. Both agree to put child as dependent on whichever return produces the most benefit.

Father's income is $29,000

Mother's income is $13,000

Although the dependency helps either, it helps her more.

her taxable income is down to zero....so her results are the same if she files Single or HOH.

HOH status would help father, but it looks like whichever one claims the child as a dependent, also gets the HOH....the other cannot claim any of the benefits associated with this child...including HOH.....agree?

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HOH goes to the one who paid more than half to keep a household for a qualifying child. With a low-income couple, logic would suggest that the higher income parent would claim HOH. But WHO paid the household bills? If she paid the rent and utilities and bought food and he bought booze and motorcycle parts and rode with his buddies to Miami Beach or maybe paid his own tuition at Harvard or has huge child support and alimony payments to his previous family or.... You have to ask questions. And, yes, if I thought the lower income parent might be the one paying for the household, I'd document, document, document, knowing the IRS would take some convincing.

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Also, HOH may go to noone. If mother claims child and didn't provide more than half the support for the household she can't claim HOH and neither can father.

Sometimes, a child meets the relationship, age, residency, support, and joint return tests to be a qualifying child of more than one person. Although the child is a qualifying child of each of these persons, only one person can actually treat the child as a qualifying child to take all of the following tax benefits (provided the person is eligible for each benefit).
  1. The exemption for the child.

  2. The child tax credit.

  3. Head of household filing status.

  4. The credit for child and dependent care expenses.

  5. The exclusion from income for dependent care benefits.

  6. The earned income credit.

The other person cannot take any of these benefits based on this qualifying child. In other words, you and the other person cannot agree to divide these benefits between you. The other person cannot take any of these tax benefits for a child unless he or she has a different qualifying child.

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Or....since his income is so much higher (and he pays "most" of the bills), should I put dependency and all of its advantages on him even though they both want it on her because it produces larger refund?

Maybe they both don't qualify to claim her since it appears that the child only meets the support test for the father.

my brain hurts

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Support test for a qualifying child is that the child can't provide over half their own support. The taxpayer need not pay a single penny on the child. So as to who can claim the child, either the father or mother can. They can decide who will claim the child.

If the mother claims the child and does not provide more than half the cost of keeping up the home for the tax year she can't claim head of household.

I think the likely result is going to be single filing status for both mom and dad.

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but HOH can only go to the one claiming the dependancy...agreed?

No. HOH is not based on the ability to claim the child as a dependent. Two separate situations.

Think of the single custodial parent that allows the other parent to claim the child as deduction. The custodial parent can still claim HOH.

Your situation is the same, except both live under the same roof.

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Ouch...there goes that vein in my head again.

I would LOVE to give the HOH to the dad...but what about the exerpt from Pub 17 that David1980 pasted above...it seems pretty clear that only mom can claim HOH if she qualified....but she does not so this makes it seem that neither can claim HOH if mom claims the dependency.

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Ouch...there goes that vein in my head again.

I would LOVE to give the HOH to the dad...but what about the exerpt from Pub 17 that David1980 pasted above...it seems pretty clear that only mom can claim HOH if she qualified....but she does not so this makes it seem that neither can claim HOH if mom claims the dependency.

I disagree. See my example.

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Think of the single custodial parent that allows the other parent to claim the child as deduction. The custodial parent can still claim HOH.

That is because of the special rules for divorced/separated parents. In this case, it sounds like the parents are still happily living together and not separated. If I add just a little bit more from pub 17 to my previous quote:


Special Rule for Qualifying Child of More Than One Person

taxtip.gif

If your qualifying child is not a qualifying child of anyone else, this special rule does not apply to you and you do not need to read about it. This is also true if your qualifying child is not a qualifying child of anyone else except your spouse with whom you file a joint return.

caution.gif

If a child is treated as the qualifying child of the noncustodial parent under the rules for children of divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart) described earlier, see Applying this special rule to divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart), later.

Sometimes, a child meets the relationship, age, residency, support, and joint return tests to be a qualifying child of more than one person. Although the child is a qualifying child of each of these persons, only one person can actually treat the child as a qualifying child to take all of the following tax benefits (provided the person is eligible for each benefit).

  1. The exemption for the child.

  2. The child tax credit.

  3. Head of household filing status.

  4. The credit for child and dependent care expenses.

  5. The exclusion from income for dependent care benefits.

  6. The earned income credit.

The other person cannot take any of these benefits based on this qualifying child. In other words, you and the other person cannot agree to divide these benefits between you. The other person cannot take any of these tax benefits for a child unless he or she has a different qualifying child.

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I don't think I'm overthinking it. Seems simple. Dad cannot claim HOH if mom claims dependent. http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Qualifying-Child-of-More-Than-One-Person

At least, since they redid the dependent rules ~2004?

I agree with David.

Because they live together, ONLY the person claiming the child will be able to be HOH if otherwise qualifies. Also EIC goes to the parent who spent most nights with the child, NOT the one that makes most of the money. AND that's only if both claim the child on the return.

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JB,

Your first post was correct as unmarried parents living together all year with the child is different than separated/divorced parents.

In the unmarried parents living together situation, the benefits (providing that both parents agree) all or whatever one parent can legally claim go to the one parent.....the other parent gets no benefits. If the parents don't agree, then the parent with the highest AGI gets all benefits (providing he is legally entitled to them). In other words, the parents can't pick and chose which benefit each gets. It's all or nothing.....if the mother is entitled to the EIC and both parents agree that she will claim the child as her qualifying child for the EIC, but she didn't provide more than half of the support for her child, then the exemption is lost for both parents unless the parents decide to let Dad claim the dependency credit....at which time he would be able to claim every benefit for the child providing he so qualifies for each benefit. In this case, then the mother would no longer qualify to claim the EIC. It's best to sit down with both parents and see which scenario provides them with the biggest savings in tax dollars assuming they are both your clients. I have two such clients coming in the morning.

These rules differ from divorced parents or unmarried parents living apart....

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if the mother is entitled to the EIC and both parents agree that she will claim the child as her qualifying child for the EIC, but she didn't provide more than half of the support for her child, then the exemption is lost for both parents

No. Mother does NOT have to provide more than half of the support for her child. The child can NOT provide more than half of his own support. That's for the dependency.

(If you're talking about HOH, then mother would have to pay for more than half of the household expenses to file as HOH.)

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JB,

Your first post was correct as unmarried parents living together all year with the child is different than separated/divorced parents.

In the unmarried parents living together situation, the benefits (providing that both parents agree) all or whatever one parent can legally claim go to the one parent.....the other parent gets no benefits. If the parents don't agree, then the parent with the highest AGI gets all benefits (providing he is legally entitled to them). In other words, the parents can't pick and chose which benefit each gets. It's all or nothing.....if the mother is entitled to the EIC and both parents agree that she will claim the child as her qualifying child for the EIC, but she didn't provide more than half of the support for her child, then the exemption is lost for both parents unless the parents decide to let Dad claim the dependency credit....at which time he would be able to claim every benefit for the child providing he so qualifies for each benefit. In this case, then the mother would no longer qualify to claim the EIC. It's best to sit down with both parents and see which scenario provides them with the biggest savings in tax dollars assuming they are both your clients. I have two such clients coming in the morning.

These rules differ from divorced parents or unmarried parents living apart....

I disagree. The mother can claim the child even if she provided only 0, zero (nada), of support. She doesn't qualify to be HOH. If the father doesn't claim the child, both will file as single, mother claims the child and that will be the end of the conversation by the parents, preparer and the IRS.

If both parents claim the child, mother will file as single claiming the child, father will file as HOH and claim the child too. At that point the conversation will start by the IRS and will send a letter to both parents. If the mother can prove that the father had to go and work one night in NY and she stayed with the child that night, she will win the tie breaker because nights for the mother will be 365 and nights for the father will be 364. That's without mentioning vacation and most of the time mothers stay with the children 365 nights in a year. If the mother can prove 365 nights for her and only 364 nights for the father, the IRS will force the father to change from HOH and file as single without any dependents.

If father and mother have 365 nights with child, father will qualify as HOH and keep the child as dependent because he had more income than mother. At that point mother will be single with no child and no all the goodies that come with the child.

I think we are confusing when a full time student child age 20, makes $9,000 and didn't provide more than 50% of his own support. If the parents don't want to claim him, he cannot take his own exemption and it is lost if parents don't claim him.

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If the mother actually spends more than half of the upkeep of a home for her child, she CAN be HOH. But, document, document, document. Maybe mother pays the housing expenses and is HOH while father pays for clothing and college savings and poker with his buddies. Do the worksheet before you deny mother HOH.

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If the mother actually spends more than half of the upkeep of a home for her child, she CAN be HOH. But, document, document, document. Maybe mother pays the housing expenses and is HOH while father pays for clothing and college savings and poker with his buddies. Do the worksheet before you deny mother HOH.

Why make it harder than it should be? With13K income HOH is the same as single claiming a child.

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