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My wife and I have been physically (not legally) seperated since late 2009. I live in Michigan and she lives in Minnesota. For the tax year ending 2011, her tax advisor had her file as Head of Household, and claimed our two sons as deductions, which was fine with me, while I filed married filing seperatley. Everything was fine until a staff person at a private college that our son is attending told us that my wife would have to amend her federal (that is all that they care about) tax return filing status, to married filing seperatley. In addition, my wife's tax advisor amended her federal return on another new 1040 and not a 1040x. Now the college is demanding that they receive a copy of a new 1040x by Tuesday. Can you tell me if my wife's original federal tax filing status as Head of Household is correct and workable?


The BIDaWIZ Team's Answer:

The general rule of thumb is that if you are legally married there are two filing options: married filing separately or married filing jointly. However, the IRS states per publication 501, that you can claim head of household if you are "considered unmarried" for the year. To be "considered unmarried" you must meet all of these requirements:

    1) You and and your wife file separate returns.

    2) You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year. 3) Your spouse did not live in your home during the last 6 months of the tax year.

    4) Your spouse is considered to live in your home even if he or she is temporarily absent due to special circumstances.

    5) Your wife's home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half the year.

    6) Your wife must be able to claim an exemption for the child. However, you meet this test if you cannot claim the exemption only because the noncustodial parent can claim the child using the rules described later in Children of divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart under Qualifying Child or in Support Test for Children of Divorced or Separated Parents or Parents Who Live Apartunder Qualifying Relative.

Therefore, given the your specific circumstances, we believe your wife could have filed head of household because you meet the requirements of being considered unmarried. You should present publication 501 to the party that is inquiring.

The BIDaWIZ Team



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