Can Two People Claim Head of Household at the Same Address?

It Is Possible, If You Meet the Requirements

Image shows a see-through house with two figures inside; one upstairs and one downstairs, both reading. Text reads: "Can two people file as HOH the same address? The IRS maintains that head of household filing status isn't about the physical address. In order to have two people filing as HOH at the same address, they need to be separate economic entities."

Image by Bailey Mariner © The Balance 2020

There's no yes-or-no answer to two people being able to claim the head of household (HOH) filing status if they live at the same address. That is because it's based on numerous, interlocking, qualifying factors. Some are carved in stone, while others vary somewhat under different circumstances.

There are three basic rules for qualifying as head of household, and you must meet all of them:

  • You must be unmarried or considered to be unmarried.
  • You must have a qualifying dependent.
  • You must pay more than half the cost of maintaining your home.

Why File as Head of Household?

The HOH filing status is advantageous in a couple of ways. The standard deduction available to these taxpayers is significantly more than that offered to single individuals: $18,650 in the 2020 tax year and $12,400 for single filers.

The HOH tax brackets accommodate more income, so these taxpayers can earn more before paying a higher percentage in taxes.

Qualifying Rules: You Must Be Unmarried

The first qualifying test is that you must be unmarried or "considered unmarried" as of the last day of the tax year. You would qualify if you were never married or legally divorced and haven't remarried, but you can also qualify if you didn't live with your spouse at any time during the last six months of the tax year.

Temporary absences such as attending school out of state or incarceration don't count—your intention must be that you're not going ever to begin living together again.

You would be considered unmarried if your spouse was a nonresident alien at any point during the year, and you've elected not to treat them as a resident alien for tax purposes. You can't claim your spouse as a dependent for purposes of qualifying, however.

You Must Have a Dependent

You must also be able to claim a closely related person as a dependent. This dependent can be either a qualifying child or a qualifying relative. The individual must live in your home for more than half the year, although the IRS makes an exception to this rule for parents if you pay more than half the cost of keeping up their home during the year.

The IRS also offers a special provision for divorced or separated parents. You would still qualify as head of household if you're the custodial parent, and your child lives with you more than half the year, but you've relinquished the right to claim the child as a dependent for other tax purposes, allowing their other parent to do so.

You Must Pay More Than Half of Your Home's Costs

You must additionally pay for more than half the cost of maintaining your residence during the tax year. Allowable costs include mortgage interest or rent payments, utilities, property taxes, property insurance, groceries, and other household items. They don't include health insurance, clothing, or entertainment.

You must pay more than half the cost of keeping up their household if your dependent is your parent and doesn't have to live with you.

When Two Taxpayers Share the Same Address

When two or more taxpayers share the same address, the question becomes whether the address itself constitutes one household, or whether each family living there is a separate household.

The term "household" is what generates the tax issue. It can mean one single residential structure, or it might have less of a physical meaning and instead refer to separate economic units living inside the residence.

The IRS has adopted the perspective that the head of household filing status isn't a matter of a physical address. Rather, it's defined by the totality of all the facts of a case. In other words, there's some wiggle room here.

It doesn't automatically mean that two taxpayers can't both be heads of households because they physically share a residence, but they must carefully analyze the actual circumstances of their situation.

An Example

Sam and Sally are roommates—they lease a house together. They each have a dependent child who lives with them, and neither is married. They split the rent, the utilities, and the grocery bill. Neither would normally qualify as head of household because each is paying 50% of their joint household bills—not more than half.

But they might qualify under IRS rules if they and their children maintain totally separate lives. As an example, they don't share meals and have separate cable TV or streaming services. Sam hires a babysitter for his child if he's going out for the evening, even if Sally is home.

They're simply two families sharing the same physical structure. They're two separate economic entities, so each could qualify as head of household.

Proving That Two Separate Households Exist

According to the IRS, taxpayers who share the same physical address must prove that they live as separate households, and have independent lives outside the residence. Some factors that can weigh in favor of two separate households sharing the same physical residence might include the following:

  • Each family has separate telephone lines
  • The taxpayers maintain separate finances and separate bank accounts
  • Neither family contributes financial support to the other
  • The adult taxpayers have separate bedrooms
  • The children have separate bedrooms
  • The family members don't celebrate holidays or birthdays together

Professional Advice Is Recommended

Taxpayers who feel that they might qualify as head of household even though they share the same physical address with another taxpayer should seek advice from an experienced tax professional. This professional might be an attorney, an enrolled agent, or a certified public accountant. All these professionals are qualified to analyze complicated tax situations and provide advice.

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