Can an unmarried cohabitating couple each claim the Head of Household if both have children?

Head of Household filing status allows unmarried taxpayers with children to claim special tax benefits. The status doesn’t apply to just one household taxpayer, but is for any adult who qualifies, as long as they meet all the IRS criteria. Two people in a single household can qualify, though specific requirements have to be met. You must be considered unmarried by your state, and you must fulfill all the criteria for filing as head of household according to the IRS.

Qualifying Child

If you and your unmarried partner both have your own qualifying children, you may qualify to claim the status. You need to pay for over half of the living expenses, and the child has to reside with you for more than 50% of the year. You must meet these criteria independently of your partner.

Household Expenses

You must pay at least half of the household expenses for you and your own children to file as head of household. If both adults in the household meet this requirement, then both will qualify to use the status. The IRS divides the responsibility for household financials among the parents of children, which is why two adults in the same household can file that way, as long as they aren’t both biological parents of the children they claim. Generally, you’ll meet the requirement for paying more than half of the expenses if your children live with you most of the year.

Example: You and your child move in with a friend who also has a child. You both have your own bedroom and bathroom, buy your own groceries, and each pay rent and utilities. It’s almost like having two separate households, which makes both you and the taxpayer eligible to file using head of household by meeting the financial expenses requirement.

If you and your unmarried partner meet all the requirements for using the head of household status, you need to file a separate return in which you each claim your individual child. You can both use the same address, as the return is based on meeting individual requirements for using the status.