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What is Head of Household?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Feb 13, 2024
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The head of household is a term that is broadly used to describe the individual within a household that is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the home, and for the care of all individuals who dwell within the space. The term is often utilized in terms of designating a filing status for income taxes, but also has cultural implications related to the role of adults within the home. As the head of household relates to taxation, most governments provide specific qualifications that must be met in order to claim that filing status.

In the broadest cultural sense, the head of household is the individual who owns a home, or provides the income that is used to rent or lease the property. In situations where the dwelling is obtained rent-free, the head of household would be the individual who was able to arrange the free housing. In many cultures, gender also plays a role in determining who is designated as the head of household. In homes where there is no male adult, the female who manages the assets and provides the home for the family is granted this designation. Should a male adult, usually a husband, be present in the home, tradition in many countries requires that he carry the title of the head of household, even if the adult female is the one who provides the income and is held responsible for the financial maintenance of the family home.

Tax agencies normally provide specific qualifications that must be met in order to file as the head of household. These requirements vary somewhat from country to country, but normally have to do with ownership of the property, or the existence of a contract between the taxpayer and a third party that makes it possible to maintain a residence for the taxpayer and any dependents living in the home. One of the reasons for setting specific criteria for determining the filing status is that the head of household can usually claim a larger personal deduction than is possible for other status types. For unmarried individuals who have children living in the home, this means the ability to file returns with this status will often provide greater tax advantages that make it possible to retain more income for the upkeep of the home and the care of those who live in the home.

Because the qualifications for obtaining head of household status do vary from one nation to the next, it is important to understand current regulations regarding this particular filing status. Many people assume they do not qualify, and thus miss out on the tax breaks afforded by filing with this status. Others assume they are entitled to this status when in fact they do not meet the criteria necessary. In order to avoid either situation, consulting with a tax professional before claiming this personal exemption is a good idea.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
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Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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