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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Abandoned Spouse Rule: Filing Your Federal Income Tax with Filing Status Head of Household

By JC Leahy,  MA, Accounting

Income Tax Question from Virginia:
Although I’m still married, can I file my Form 1040 Federal income tax return as Head of Household rather than Married Jointly or Married Separately? Robert's income still comes in to help provide for us, even though we've been separated for over a year and the kids live exclusively with me.  We have not drawn up any formal separation papers, but that didn't seem necessary for the status.  Me and my two daughters are going to be in college next year (me and Anna are currently)  We filled out the FAFSA stating that Robert and I are separated and I believe that if I file the taxes as "married filing jointly" again this year it may affect the help we get with tuition (which we definitely need!). 

Answer from JC Leahy:
Yes, Virginia,  you can file your Federal income tax return with the filing status Head of Household if you are considered what they call an "abandoned spouse".  To be an "abandoned spouse" you need to meet these requirements:

1. You file a separate return
2. You must maintain a home where the child for whom you may CLAIM AS DEPENDENCY DEDUCTION lives for more than half of the year
3. You must pay more than half the cost of maintaining that home, and
4. During the lat 6 months of the year, your spouse must not live in the same house as you.

To claim the dependency, in turn, you must pay MORE THAN HALF THE COST of maintaining the child OR have an agreement approved by a divorce court that says you get the dependency exemption.

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