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HOH and MFS Question (Separated Spouses)


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04-17-17, 09:18 AM   #1 (permalink)  
HOH and MFS Question (Separated Spouses)

I'll try to keep this simple....My spouse and I have been separated and living apart for three years. I qualified for HOH and itemized my deductions. Does this mean my spouse is required to itemize as well? I haven't been able to get an explicit answer from reading instructions on IRS.gov or answered questions on the TurboTax website. From what I have read, this is what is sounds like to me:

Spouse 1 HOH/Itemizes, Spouse 2 MFS and must itemize
Spouse 1 HOH/Standard Deduction, Spouse 2 MFS and either standard or itemize

Basically, if Spouse 1 files HOH, he/she can choose to itemize or use standard deduction, but if he/she chooses itemized, Spouse 2 must also itemize. If Spouse 1 chooses HOH/standard, then Spouse 2 can do either MFS standard or itemized.

I'm assuming this means if Spouse 2 files first and uses MFS/Standard and Spouse 1 files at a later date and selects HOH/itemize, that the IRS will then ask Spouse 2 to correct her return? This isn't my case, I am just curious.


Last edited by mossman; 04-17-17 at 11:41 AM.
 
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04-17-17, 09:30 AM   #2 (permalink)  
As long as both of you don't claim the same deductions, you're good to go.

 
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04-17-17, 11:05 AM   #3 (permalink)  
Can you provide a reference where it explicitly states this? Everything I have read says she cannot claim the standard deduction if I itemize.

 
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04-17-17, 11:29 AM   #4 (permalink)  
https://www.irs.gov/publications/p504/ar02.html

Scroll down to head of household.

Head of Household

Filing as head of household has the following advantages.

You can claim the standard deduction even if your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions.

 
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04-17-17, 11:30 AM   #5 (permalink)  
You can claim the standard deduction even if your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions.
Right, but that isn't my question. My question is if I file HOH and itemize (which I did), does she have to itemize?

 
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04-17-17, 03:24 PM   #6 (permalink)  
I just called an accountant friend of mine. No answer yet. I don't understand why it would matter, how it could be enforced or why the HOH would care? Not every separated couple still talks to each other.

Edit: I spoke to my friend. He thinks that they have to be the same but it was not a definite yes.


Last edited by donoli2016; 04-17-17 at 03:48 PM.
 
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04-17-17, 04:48 PM   #7 (permalink)  
I appreciate you checking! I don't understand either. I am itemizing because I have mortgage insurance, etc, and I'm HOH because I have primary custody. We were practically divorced as of Dec 31, so I don't see why she would be penalized.

I'm sure turbo tax will default to whatever is appropriate.

 
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04-17-17, 05:04 PM   #8 (permalink)  
Turbo tax says we both must itemize or both must use the standard deduction. Except it says we either both must itemize or both use the standard deduction. I believe this is for MFS status though, because it makes no mention in the explanation about one spouse being HOH. The only reference I can find that says otherwise is an answer someone posted to a question on the website. Don't really feel comfortable trusting some random user. Waiting for a callback to speak with someone in person.


Last edited by mossman; 04-17-17 at 05:39 PM.
 
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04-18-17, 05:15 AM   #9 (permalink)  
The person that called couldn't answer my question either, but I found at least three places in the tax code that elude to the fact that if HOH itemizes, the other spouse filing MFS cannot claim the standard deduction and therefore should itemize. Unfortunately for her, this results in her taxable income being about $5,900 more than it would have been.l, which is about $1,000 more in taxes.

 
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04-18-17, 06:21 AM   #10 (permalink)  
Unfortunately for her, this results in her taxable income being about $5,900 more than it would have been.l, which is about $1,000 more in taxes.
If such a ruling exists, now we know why.

 
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04-18-17, 12:42 PM   #11 (permalink)  
MFS is really a crappy status for filing. If you have anything resembling a decent relationship with her, I would look into discussing a joint return.

 
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04-18-17, 01:12 PM   #12 (permalink)  
We have a good relationship. I worked our taxes MFJ like we did last year, but it showed us owing several thousand so I was said no flipping way. I've never owed ever. It is because her previous employer didn't withhold enough federal taxes and zero state taxes. I happened to see one of her paystubs and noticed there were not state taxes being withheld, but by that time she had already switched employers.

One thing I just realized is that I can let her claim our daughter as a dependent while still filing HOH. I thought I had to claim a dependent to file HOH, but there is a special rule for divorced and separated parents. She just needs to submit a form 8332 and the pages from our separation agreement that says she is allowed to claim her. However, I make so much more income than her, that me not claiming our daughter is going to result in a greater overall tax then her claiming her, so I agreed to pay some of the tax she owes to help offset the difference.

 
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04-18-17, 02:14 PM   #13 (permalink)  
You maybe accustomed to preparing your own returns. However, it might be time to hire someone.

 
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04-19-17, 02:08 PM   #14 (permalink)  
I would recommend each of you at least working out a rough draft of your taxes MFS then together so you can see what each would gain. Then figure out how to split any refund or amount due and I would think there would be a middle ground where each of you comes out better.

The parent who claims HOH is the primary custodian but either parent can claim the child as a dependent. My divorce agreement spells out that we alternate who gets to claim our daughter but I have never been able to file HOH since she spends about 2/3 of the time at her mother's home.

 
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04-23-17, 07:54 PM   #15 (permalink)  
I don't think there is any mention of claiming dependents in our final decree. If that is the case, then I guess from now on whomever is the primary custodian has to claim her? So that would be me. Whoops.

 
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04-23-17, 07:57 PM   #16 (permalink)  
I worked it all the different ways using the turbo tax software and me HOH and claiming our daughter worked best overall. It's unfortunate she owes, but that is due to her mistake. She is now claiming the proper amount of deductions so she should be good next year.

 
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04-23-17, 08:01 PM   #17 (permalink)  
Not necessary. The only reason I posted is because there was some conflicting information on the web about HOH and MFS and the standard deduction vs itemizing. The tax code doesn't explicitly state that the spouse filing MFS has to itemize. The code says the spouse filing MFS cannot claim the standard deduction. In which case the only option is to itemize.

 
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04-23-17, 08:09 PM   #18 (permalink)  
How could it be enforced you ask? When you claim MFS, you have to put your spouses SSN on your 1040, so the IRS can check to see if you filed properly. If the HOH itemized and the MFS claimed the standard deduction, the IRS would refuse the MFS spouses return and make them amend it. I completely agree that it makes no sense because I don't see why the MFS filer is basically punished because of how the HOH filer chooses to file. I own a house and she rents, so itemizing makes sense for me, but does not make sense for her. All she has is employment income, so she gets screwed.

 
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04-24-17, 08:10 AM   #19 (permalink)  
All she has is employment income, so she gets screwed.
You have 3 choices. Let her deal with it, pay it for her or get a divorce. You are still friends with her. That's not always the case. Some guys wouldn't care.

 
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04-24-17, 08:45 AM   #20 (permalink)  
We are divorced now, and I agreed to pay her state taxes for her ($1,300), but she will be paying the federal tax ($1,800) via an installment plan through the IRS. They will give her 72 months to pay it back, but she should be able to pay it back within a few months.

 
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04-24-17, 08:50 AM   #21 (permalink)  
Ok, so the good news is that you have an agreement. The bad news is that the gov is sticking you for a lot of money. There is an old saying. "It's cheaper to keep her."

 
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