Defining married head of household

Tax Talk

Tax Talk

March 13, 2007

Editor's note: Every Tuesday through the end of tax season, The Sun will run an edited transcript of Baltimoresun.com's weekly tax-advice column featuring three experts from the Hunt Valley accounting firm SC&H Group.

If you have a married couple with children living in the house, can one parent file for the head of household tax break or is that just for single parents?

- Thomas, Baltimore

Ordinarily a taxpayer must not be married at the end of the year to qualify as head of household. However, a married taxpayer can still file as head of household if he or she meets all of the tests for being "considered unmarried." The tests for being "considered unmarried" are: (1) the taxpayer files a separate return from the spouse; (2) the taxpayer paid more than half the cost of keeping up the home for the tax year; (3) the spouse did not live in the home during the last six months of the tax year, and (4) the taxpayer's home was the main home for more than half the year of his or her child or step-child. If either of the married individuals meets all of these tests, then they may file as head of household.

Withholding was sent to Maryland for two months in error; my residence status was changed to Virginia in 2005. What is required for me to recover this money?

- Tim, Exmore, Va.

If Maryland tax was withheld from your income in error, you must file a nonresident Form 505 to obtain a refund of the withholding. Complete all of the information at the top of the form through the filing status, residence information and exemption areas. Enter your federal adjusted gross income on Line 17 in both columns one and three and Line 24. Then complete Line 33 (enter zero unless you claimed an earned income credit on your federal return), Lines 43-48, 50 and 52.

After completing, sign the return and attach withholding statements (Form W-2 and/or 1099) showing the Maryland tax withheld equal to the refund you are claiming.

Are homeowners association fees tax deductible?

- Kevin, Marriottsville

Homeowners association fees are considered personal living expenses and not tax-deductible.

What can you do if a 1098 form is incorrect? I mailed a check to my mortgage lender three days before the end of the year. The lender did not pick up that check, which includes principal and interest, in the 1098. Can I still claim the interest included in that check?

- Don, Baltimore

The IRS instructs taxpayers that have paid home mortgage interest in excess of the amount reported on the Form 1098 to report the correct amount on Line 10 of Schedule A. Additionally, prepare and attach a statement explaining the difference and write "See Attached" next to Line 10. See IRS Publication 936 "Home Mortgage Interest Deduction" for more on this topic.

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