Can Two People Claim Head of Household at Same Address?
Two Taxpayers May Be Able to Claim HOH at the Same Address
Can two people both qualify for head of household (HOH) filing status if they live at the same address? It's not quite a yes-or-no question because the answer is based on numerous qualifying factors. All factors must be met to claim head of household, and living with another adult blurs at least one of them a great deal.
Some are carved in stone, while others vary somewhat under different circumstances.
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 compared to $12,400.
And the HOH tax brackets accommodate more income so these taxpayers can earn more before paying a higher tax percentage.
Criteria for Head of Household Eligibility
There are four basic rules for qualifying for head of household status, and a taxpayer must meet all of them to qualify.
- The taxpayer must be unmarried or "considered unmarried" as of the last day of the tax year. You would obviously qualify if you were never married or if you're 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 to begin living together again.
- The taxpayer must be able to claim a closely-related person as a dependent.
- That closely-related person must actually reside at the same residence as the taxpayer for more than half the year, although exceptions to this rule exist for some close relatives, such as parents, as long as you can claim them as dependents.
- The taxpayer must pay for more than half the cost of maintaining the residence. Allowable costs include mortgage interest or rent payments, utilities, property taxes, property insurance, groceries, and other household items, but not health insurance, clothing, entertainment, and the like. If your dependent is someone who doesn't have to live with you, you must pay more than half the cost of keeping up their household.
If you're considered unmarried because you and your spouse didn't live together the last six months of the year, you must have a qualifying child dependent. An adult dependent such as a parent won't qualify 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 at that address is its own separate household.
The term "household" is what generates the tax issue. Does it mean one single residential structure, or does it have less of a physical meaning and refer to separate economic units living inside the residence?
The IRS has adopted the perspective that head of household filing status isn't a matter of a physical address, but rather it's defined by the totality of all the facts of a case. In other words, there's some wiggle room here.
It does not automatically mean that two taxpayers cannot both be head of household because they physically share a residence, but they must carefully analyze the actual circumstances of their situation.
Sam and Sally are roommates—together they lease a house. 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 will qualify as head of household because each is paying 50% of their joint household bills. They don't meet the "more than half" of the household expenses rule.
They might qualify under IRS rules, however, if they and their children maintain totally separate lives. They don't share meals together. They have separate cable TV or streaming services. If Sam is going out for the evening, he hires a babysitter for his child—even if Sally is home.
They're simply two families sharing the same physical roof. They're two separate economic entities.
Proving That Two Separate Households Exist
According to the IRS, taxpayers who share the same physical address must prove whether they live as one household or as separate households. Do they have independent lives outside of the residence? Some additional factors that would weigh in favor of there being two separate households sharing the same residence might include:
- 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
Due to the complexity of this situation, taxpayers who feel that they might qualify for head of household status even though they share the same address with another taxpayer should seek advice from an experienced tax professional. This might be an attorney, an enrolled agent, or a certified public accountant. These professionals are trained to analyze complicated tax situations and provide advice.
Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2020," Accessed Dec. 6, 2019.
Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 501 (2018), Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information," Accessed Dec. 6, 2019.