Raising kids on your own is not easy and you need a break. Luckily, you may just get one ... or a tax break at least.
Tax experts say that the key to getting the proper credits on your taxes is not the divorce decree but reality. Although you may not be the official custodial parent, if your kids sleep under your roof for more than six months of the year, you can claim them as dependents. And here are a few more tax tips for single parents.
Splitting the Dependency Exemption
If you are divorced, it will require coordination with your ex to ensure that you do not both claim credits that are only available to one of your two households. Only one household can claim a child as a dependent, generally speaking, and this tends to be determined by custody. But as noted above, it is not always the case that custody is split according to court orders -- perhaps agreements change with circumstances and now your kids spend more time with you than your ex. That should be reflected in your taxes.
For single parents without any ex to deal with, taxes are a little easier, even if shouldering the responsibility of raising a child alone is not. No ex means no coordination between parents and you are the head of household claiming kids as dependents and getting all the available credits.
What Credits for Kids?
There are many tax credits for dependent children, including earned income credit, credit for childcare expenses, exemptions for the child, and the child tax credit, among others. But is impossible to say in the abstract what applies to your specific situation without knowing details of your earnings and what agreements, if any, you have with an ex-spouse.
To take advantage of all the credits available to you and to ensure that you do not incur unnecessary tax liability, talk to a lawyer. Get help. You may be a single parent, but you do not have to do everything alone.