New Definition for “Child” for Choosing Your Filing Status

For many years, single parents and single taxpayers who take care of their parents, have been able to utilize the lowest tax rates by filing as Head of Household.

Effective January 1, 2005, there are new requirements to determine if you can file as Head of Household.

Here are the new rules for a qualifying child for Head of Household purposes:

  1. Gross income Test: This test no longer applies for purpose. This test is used for dependency qualification.
  2. Relationship Test: Child includes the taxpayer’s natural, step-child, adopted or eligible foster child.
  3. Age Test: Child must be less than 19 years old ormust be a full-time student who is less than 24 years old.
  4. Citizenship Test: The child must be a citizen or resident of the U.S. or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
  5. Abode Test: Child must have the same principal place of abode as the taxpayer for more than half of the taxable year.
  6. Support Test: Child must not have provided more than one-half of his or her own support during the taxable year.
  7. Joint return Test: An individual who files a joint return cannot be the qualifying child.

Even though the child may not qualify you to file as Head of Household, that child could qualify as your dependent. Dependency rules includes the Gross income test.

The table below can help to determine if you can file as Head of Household:


Must live with T/P

Must be T/P’s dependent

T/P’s child under age 19, student under age 24



Child not a student and over age 18




But must provide more than ½ support


Other related individual



Example: Jessica is 29 years old and lives with her father Tim. Jessica earns $24,000 per year, but Tim pays the household expenses. ANSWER: Jessica is not Tim’s dependent because she does not meet the gross income test and Tim cannot use Head of Household status because Jessica is too old.

To make things worse, California has not accepted this change.  That means you can file using one filing status for federal and a different one for California.

You can no longer assume your kids qualify you for tax savings. Please consult your tax advisor in case you need to adjust your tax withholdings with your employer.

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