One of the most frequent questions that I am asked in my office is "Can I still claim head of household when it is not my year to claim my child?"
Many divorce degrees or shared custody situations contain the ability for each parent to claim the child or children in opposite years. What happens to the custodial parent's filing situation? A custodial parent is the parent the child lives with a majority of the time. The Internet Revenue Service provides a special rule for divorced, separated parents or parents who have never married. In most cases, because of the residency test, a child of divorced or separated parents is the qualifying child of the custodial parent. To be a qualifying child, all four of the following tests must be met:
* Joint return
However, in order for the child to be treated as the qualifying child of the noncustodial parent, all four of the following statements must be true:
1. The parents:
A. Are divorced or legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance,
B. Are separated under a written separation agreement, or
C. Lived apart at all times during the last 6 months of the year, whether or not they are or were married.
2. The child received over half of his or her support for the year from the parents.
3. The child is in the custody of one or both parents for more than half of the year.
4. Either of the following statements is true:
A. The custodial parent signs a written declaration that he or she will not claim the child as a dependent for the year and the noncustodial parent attaches this written declaration to his or her return.
B. A pre-1985 decree of divorce or separate maintenance or written separation agreement that applies to 2013 states that the noncustodial parent can claim the child as a dependent, the decree or agreement was not changed after 1984 to say the noncustodial parent cannot claim the child as a dependent, and the noncustodial parent provides at least $600 for the child's support during the year.
According to the IRS, if a child is treated as the qualifying child of the noncustodial parent under the rules described above, only the noncustodial parent can claim an exemption and the child tax credit for the child. However, the custodial parent can claim the child as a qualifying child for head of household filing status, the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the exclusion for dependent care benefits, and the earned income credit.
For more information about the head of household filing status for divorced or separated parents, go to: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch02.html#en_US_2012_publink1000170792.
Tracy Bunner is an enrolled agent and tax preparer with an office in Harrisville. She can be reached at 801-686-1995 or at email@example.com.