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William Perez

Claiming Dependents and Head of Household - Tax Question of the Day

By February 1, 2006

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Throughout the tax season I will be answering one tax question per day.

Today's question comes from B. O'Leary in New York. He asks, "My ex-wife and I have joint custody of our child. If I claim our child as a dependent, can my ex still claim head of household (without claiming the dependency with "qualifying person")? Thanks."

Generally, the person who claims the dependent will also claim the head of household status. However, with a properly structured arrangement, the parents can share the child-related tax benefits.

How it works is like this. The parent with whom the child lived for more than half the year would waive his or her claim to the dependent's personal exemption. So the other parent would claim the dependent's exemption, the child tax credit, and any education deductions or credits. The first parent (with whom the child lived for more than half the year) would still be eligible for head of household, the child care credit, and the dependent care FSA.


Do you have a question? Visit the Ask a Tax Question page. Disagree with my answers? Post your comments in the Tax Forum.

January 24, 2011 at 9:06 pm
(1) lisa says:

My husband & I claim my daughter (21yrs & in college) on our tax returns. She now has a daughter of her own & I need to know if she can file HOH claiming her daughter but not claiming herself as a dependent?

April 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm
(2) Devon says:

Not sure whether William was correct when this webpage was originally published, but he is dead wrong now (2010). See the IRS links at http://www.irs.gov/faqs/faq/0,,id=199703,00.html
for proof that you can claim HOH status even if your spouse takes the dependent exemption, provided that the child lived with you for more than half of the year, and you meet the other requirements for HOH filing.

November 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm
(3) Alan says:

Not sure you read William’s entire answer here because I see nothing in his answer that is contradicted by your two IRS links.

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