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According to Pew Research, one in four U.S. parents are unmarried.  Filing taxes can be frustrating for anyone but it requires even more planning as a single parent.  You want to avoid any mix-ups about who’s claiming the kids and take advantage of beneficial tax breaks that can lower your bottom line.  Here are some things single moms and dads need to keep in mind this season.

Discuss who gets to claim the kids on their tax return

Before you file your return, one thing you need to clarify is who gets to claim the kids on their tax return.  Usually it’s the parent who the child lives with most of the time.  However, you may decide that one parent can claim the kids on odd years, the other on even.  Whatever you decide to do make sure everyone is on the same page ahead of time.  If there’s some miscommunication and both parents try to claim the same child on their tax return, the second return will be rejected. 

File as “Head of Household”

When it comes to your filing status, don’t automatically assume that if you aren’t married, you must file single.  Choosing “head of household” as your filing status can lead to bigger savings thanks to the lower tax rate and higher standard deduction.  In case you’re unaware, the standard deduction is only $12,000 for single filers whereas head of household is $18,000.  That’s $6,000 in instant savings.  The qualifications for filing head of household are as follows:

  • You must be unmarried
  • You must pay at least half of the living expenses for you and your kids
  • Your kids must have lived with you for at least six months

Don’t worry, when you do your taxes with ezTaxReturn.com, they can help you decide which filing status is right for you.

Find out if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit

Depending on how much money you earn, you may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  The credit was specifically designed to help low to moderate income workers but is most beneficial for people with kids.  The credit amount varies based on your income, filing status and number of children being claimed.  However, those with three or more children can walk away with up to $6,431.  See the chart below for the earned income limits and maximum credit amounts.

Your investment income also cannot exceed $3,500 for the year.  Find out if you qualify for the EITC by doing your taxes now at ezTaxReturn.com.

Claim the Child Tax Credit

Most people enjoy being a parent, especially when they see how much their children save them in taxes.  The IRS offers several tax credits that are beneficial to families, the most popular being the Child Tax Credit.  Tax credits reduce the amount of taxes you owe.  The Child Tax Credit is worth up to $2,000 per child aged 16 or younger.  Up to $1,400 per child is refundable.  So, if the credit reduces your tax liability to zero, you can receive the remaining portion as a refund.

Don’t forget to include the Child and Dependent Care Credit

Someone has to watch the kids while you go to work, and chances are it’s costing you a pretty penny.  Fortunately, your childcare expenses may make you eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Credit.  To qualify, your child must be 12 or younger and you must have earned a paycheck during the year.  Parents of one child can claim up to $3,000 in expenses, while those with two or more children have a $6,000 limit.  You cannot claim the cost of food, housing, clothing, education and entertainment.  However, preschool, day camps and certain fees are acceptable expenses.  Eligible parents can expect to receive a credit worth 20 to 35 percent of their expenses based on their adjusted gross income.

Take advantage of education credits

If you have children who are currently in college, try to take advantage of one of the higher education credits the IRS offers.  The most popular is the American Opportunity Tax Credit which is worth up to $2,500 per student during their first four years of college.  Forty percent of the credit is refundable if you don’t owe any taxes.  Qualified expenses include tuition, books and other necessary equipment.  Another option is the Lifetime Learning Credit.  This is best for students working towards a higher-level degree or taking job-related classes.  The Lifetime Learning Credit is worth up to $2,000 per return.  ezTaxReturn.com makes it easy claim either one on your taxes, create an account now to get started.