Updated for 2019

You can save more than $2,000 on your tax bill by checking one little box: Head of Household status.

That’s why you and every eligible single mom should claim Head of Household (HoH) status… to keep that income tax bill as low as possible.

Using this filing status can save you hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars on your income taxes.

For one thing, the standard deduction using HoH status is $18,000. If you file as single instead, it’s only $12,000. So with HoH, you automatically pay taxes on $6,000 less for a minimum tax savings of $600.  And that’s just the start!

The HoH Bracket Benefit

On top of that savings, HoH filers have bigger tax brackets (tax categories based on earnings). Here’s how that works for HoH filers:

Tax Rate Tax Bracket What You Pay
10% $0 to $13,600 10% of your taxable income
12% $13,601 to $51,800 $1,360 plus 12% of the amount greater than $13,600
22% $51,801 to $82,500 $5,944 plus 22% of the amount greater than $51,800
24% $82,501 to $157,500 $12,698 plus 24% of the amount greater than $82,500
32% $157,501 to $200,000 $30,968 plus 32% of the amount greater than $157,500
35% $200,001 to $500,000 $44,298 plus 35% of the amount greater than $200,000
37% $500,001 or more $149,298 plus 37% of the amount greater than $500,000


If you filed as single, those brackets would shrink, so you’d end up paying more taxes on the same income.

HoH Math Works Better for You

Let’s say you’re a single mom taking care of two kids most of the time, and your taxable income for 2018 came to $55,000 (after taking the super-sized standard deduction).

Your income tax bill would be come out to $6,648 using HoH

$5,944 (on the first $51,800) PLUS $704 [($55,000 – $51,801) x 22%]

But if you filed as Single instead, your taxable income would be $61,000 (because of the smaller standard deduction) and your tax bill would come out to $9,360. 

By using HoH status, you’d save $2,712!

Qualify for HoH

Here’s how you qualify:

  • You’re not married (or you’re legally separated) as of December 31, 2018
  • You haven’t lived with your spouse since at least July 1, 2018
  • Your kids live with you more than 50% of the time
  • You paid more than half of the cost to support your household
  • You support a qualifying child

Those are the basics. Here are some more details…

Even if you’re technically married on December 31, you may still be able to claim HoH if you and your ex have lived apart for at least the last six months of the year. You also have to file your own tax return (it can’t be a joint return).  

What “support” means to the IRS

What counts toward household support? Most of the things you’d expect, like rent or mortgage, utilities, homeowner’s (or renter’s) insurance, property taxes, home repairs, and groceries.

Also, YOU have to pay for more than half of that on your own. It can’t come from alimony or child support. It can’t come from parents or roommates (like another adult living in your house that pays half of the expenses, for example). The money you’re using to support your kids has to come from your earnings or savings.

The IRS version of a qualifying child

A qualifying child includes more than just your natural and adopted kids under age 19 (or under 24 if they’re full-time students). This category can also include

  • stepchildren
  • foster children
  • siblings and half- or step-siblings
  • nieces and nephews
  • grandchildren…

As long as they lived with you for more than half the year and you could claim them as dependents on your tax return (even if you don’t), they count.

If you’re not sure you qualify to use the HoH status, please ask! This can get tricky when you have joint custody, or other adults contributing. And if you use HoH when you shouldn’t, the IRS could charge you tax penalties and interest on the amount of tax you should have paid.