head of household

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Head of household refers to the primary person who provides for a family. The head of household provides practical support and maintenance to persons related to them by adoption, blood, or marriage who reside together; and such obligation is based on moral or legal responsibility.

For federal income tax purposes, there are five basic tax statuses: (1) single persons; (2) heads of households; (3) married taxpayers filing joint returns; (4) married taxpayers filing separate returns; and (5) surviving spouses. The filing category of heads of household refers to persons who are unmarried or legally separated from their spouse and who are required to provide a residence for at least one dependent for more than half of the tax year. Those who file as heads of household are taxed at a lower rate than those who file as single persons.

In homestead law, most jurisdictions have adopted homestead exemption statutes that allow heads of household to designate their homes and land as homesteads, exempting them from general debt enforcement in bankruptcy. In addition, some states provide property tax exemptions for homestead property.

Head of household is also referred to as head of family or householder.

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]