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Tax Tips for Single Moms 
 
by Cheryl Morrissette May 20, 2005

Single moms have a lot to worry about. Happily, doing the year's taxes can be less stressful than you might think. Learn about the tax breaks and credits available to single moms, who is eligible, and what forms to use.

To say that it's tough to be a single mom is an understatement. Pressures of working and raising children, plus trying to maintain a home and a positive relationship with the ex can be physically and emotionally draining. Time for yourself would help you cope, if you could find it.

Ironically, the IRS is kinder to single parents than it is to most other groups of people. To those in the know, tax time offers single mothers the chance to take advantage of several big tax breaks. A mom who spends a few extra hours preparing her tax return can even get a refund big enough to pay off the credit cards and still have enough left over for a new pair of shoes and a massage.

Tip #1 -- File as Head of Household

If you are a single parent, you can almost always choose "head of household" as your filing status. Even if you are still legally married you can use this filing status, as long as you have been living on your own for more than half the year and you have custody of your child or children.

The tax benefits of filing as head of household are significant. Heads of households are taxed at a lower rate and can claim larger standard deductions then people who file as single, married filing jointly, or married filing separately. Before you check the box, though, make sure you meet the following qualifications:

  • You must be unmarried or have lived apart from your spouse for at least the last half of the year.
  • You must have a qualifying child--an unmarried child or grandchild who is yours by birth or adoption, who lives with you for more than half of the year.
  • You must have paid over 50% of the cost of keeping up the home that the qualifying child lived in for at least half the year.

If you are not sure if you can file using head of household filing status, look at the instructions for form 1040. IRS topic 353, found on the IRS website (www.irs.gov), also clearly explains who can file as head of household.

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