I am living with my domestic partner and our child, and she contributes about twice what I do into our joint checking account from which all bills are paid. Can she file as head of household? I think she's checking all the right boxes:

  • unmarried, filing separately
  • claiming a dependent
  • effectively pays > 50% of household expenses

Does the joint account make this difficult to establish? This is not in a community property state, if that matters.

Edit: I'm wondering what kind of documentation would be necessary in an audit. For example, it seems possible that if our household expenses are low enough that I could pay >50% of them, as long as her income was going toward something else.

  • How is this different than if you contributed 2x as much as her? – RonJohn Jan 18 '20 at 21:08
  • @RonJohn, I'm not sure what your question means. Sorry. If I contributed 2x as much as her I would not expect she could file as head of household unless we were able to show that she paid all of our bills and more than 3/4 of my income went to non-household expenses. But I think I'm missing something. :) – jflournoy Jan 21 '20 at 19:15
  • (This comment presumes that you're a man. If you're not, then ignore it...) One word: patriarchy. If a guy contributed most of the money to running the household, he wouldn't bat an eye at claiming HOH status. – RonJohn Jan 21 '20 at 20:11
  • I think I agree. I just really wanted to make sure the IRS isn't going to be weird about the documentation because I could imagine someone contributing <50% to a joint checking account claiming that they pay >50% of the bills. – jflournoy Jan 23 '20 at 19:38
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    If they audit her, they'll ask for evidence. But... they do that during all audits. (And they don't audit many people.) – RonJohn Jan 23 '20 at 19:49

Since money is fungible1, the joint account would make it easier to demonstrate that she pays more than half of the household expenses

That's because there's a 2:1 ratio going in, so there's a 2:1 ratio going out, even though which dollars "belong" to who was lost when they got combined.

1 able to replace or be replaced by another identical item; mutually interchangeable.


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