Can a Husband & Wife Both File Head of Household if They Live Separately?

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If both you and your spouse live apart during the tax year, maintain separate households and each of you can claim a child or qualifying relative as a dependent, you can both file separate returns as head of household for your federal taxes. Filing under this tax classification increases the amount of the standard deduction you may claim and reduces how much federal tax you personally owe.

Marital Status Requirements

To claim head of household status, the IRS requires you to either be unmarried or considered unmarried on December 31st of the tax year. The IRS considers you unmarried if you and your spouse file separate tax returns, your spouse lived at another residence for the last six consecutive months of the tax year, a child or qualifying relative who you can claim an exemption for lived primarily at your residence and you contributed financially to at least 50 percent of the cost of maintaining your household.

Financial Requirements

Expenses like your rent or mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, electricity bill and any costs associated with keeping your property habitable qualify as household expenses. You may also include the cost of groceries when determining your household expense responsibility. The IRS does not allow you to count things like clothing, gasoline or car payments towards the cost of maintaining your household during the tax year.


If your child lived with you for more than six months out of the tax year, you financially supported her and she does not file a tax return, you may claim her as an exemption and as a qualifying person who lived in your household. The IRS allows you to claim an exemption if your child is under 19 or if he is under 24 and attending college on a full-time basis. If an elderly parent lives with you, and qualifies as an exemption, you may claim him as a qualifying person. This also entitles you to file as head of household.


If the reason your spouse did not live with you for the last six months of the tax year was because he served in the military, traveled extensively for business, attended school out of state or stayed in a hospital, neither of you may file as head of household. The IRS considers these legitimate temporary absences, and you must file a joint or married filing separately tax return if you do not have an official divorce decree or separation agreement.