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What single parents need to know about tax changes for 2024

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Gah! Taxes! No one likes them (except maybe accountants and sadists), but you and I know we have to deal with them.

As a single mom or dad, there are specific considerations you must take when filing your taxes — things your married parents don’t have to deal with, and stuff that your friends without children have no idea about.

Wendy Barlin, CPA, tax strategist, and principal of the About Profit tax firm, says that single parents should spend time learning about all of the tax benefits that apply to them — especially when it comes to filing status.

“Claiming head of household is extremely valuable and places you at a preferential tax rate,” Barlin says. Combined with valuable credits, deductions, and exemptions, single parents can navigate tax season with the odds stacked in their favor.  

It’s helpful to consult a tax professional to make sure you’re not missing out on tax benefits and breaks owed to you.

But if you can’t afford to hire a professional tax preparer this season, you can file for free yourself using IRS Free File.

Also, check out these resources for free help with tax preparation.

Here is the down-and-dirty about what single parents must know about your 2023 taxes

There are some tax changes, and income requirements that differ from last year. But the bottom line remains: File early, take all the deductions you are legitimately entitled to, and ask expert advice (FREE!) from a reputable tax preparer, which you can find using IRS Free File Lookup Tool.

How much does a single mom get back in taxes?

The average tax refund for 2022 taxes filed in 2023 was $3,252 according to the IRS.1 This number reflects an average across every filing status, from single to joint filers.

There is no average tax return refund amount for a single mother, a married mom, or anyone for that matter. Your refund is based on how much money you withheld in federal, state, and local income tax and your total income.

Determine who you can claim as a dependent as a single mom

The more kids you can claim as a dependent, the higher the deductions and credits for your dependents. 

This is usually stipulated in a separation or divorce agreement, and the parent who would normally claim the child can agree to sign a waiver allowing a non-custodial parent to make the claim. You cannot split this deduction for a single child, but some parents agree to take turns claiming children on alternate years.

Or, if there are two or more children, you and your ex might agree that each parent can claim one of the kids. However, the IRS determines that a child is a dependent based on if the child lived with a parent for at least six months and was financially supported for the same time by that same parent.

In my family, this is something that had to be re-negotiated after our initial divorce agreement, since our incomes changed. Once I earned the money, I took the kids as deductions on my taxes.

You can claim as dependents:

  • Your children, if they're under 19 years old, or under 24 years old if they're full-time students, as long as they don't provide more than half of their own financial support
  • Permanently and totally disabled children, regardless of age
  • Stepchildren
  • Foster children
  • Grandchildren whom you support financially
  • Qualified relatives you take care of

Still not sure? Use the Whom May I Claim as a Dependent tool from the IRS. Set aside at least 15 minutes to complete the questionnaire.

Is there a single parent tax credit?

Single moms can take advantage of special tax credits like the Additional Child Tax Credit for 2023, file as head of household for better tax breaks, and benefit from exemptions and deductions to reduce their tax burden.

We’ll cover:

  • Filing as head of household
  • Tax credits for children and dependent care
  • Dependent care spending account
  • Earned income tax credit
  • Adoption tax credit
  • Commonly missed tax deductions and credits
  • Tax changes for the self-employed or those with a side hustle

Here’s how to maximize tax advantages in 2023:

  • Know what you can deduct – A deduction reduces your taxable annual income. For example, if you make $35,000 in 2023 and take the standard deduction ($20,800 for single, head of household filers), you are only taxed on $14,200.
  • Understand eligible tax credits – What does a tax credit do? It can reduce the tax you owe or give you money back as a tax refund. For example, the Child Tax Credit offers up to $2,000 per qualified child, reducing your tax owed, dollar for dollar. So, if you owed $2,000 and have the max credit for one child, your tax debt would be $0.
  • Learn what exemptions apply – An exemption is another way to reduce your tax debt. There are personal exemptions, but also ones for dependents, nonprofits, and state and local tax exemptions. You may be entitled to several exemptions.

Take a look at the following exemptions, deductions, and credits to see if they apply to you:

Exemptions for parents

The personal exemption of $4,050 was eliminated in 2018 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. However, there are increased credits and deductions, detailed below …

Head of household status if you're a single mom

If you were unmarried on Dec. 31, 2023, earn at least 50% of your household income, and your kids live with you for six months of the year or more total, single moms can file as head of household, and claim HOH on your W4.

This can afford you bigger tax breaks like a higher standard deduction and lower tax rate compared to filing as single.

“Always be sure that you are in fact eligible for the Head of Household deduction,” says Barlin of the About Profit tax firm. 

She advises single parents to:

  • Be clear on which parent will use the deduction for their child (or children) for the 2023 tax year.
  • Have paperwork confirming which parent gets to claim head of household status
  • Include dependent children up to age 24 who are students to claim head of household

As of the 2023 tax year, the standard deduction is $20,800 for head of household (that's $1,400 more than it was in 2022). This compares with $13,850 for single taxpayers and those who are married and filing separately, and $27,700 if you're married and filing jointly or if you're a qualifying widow or widower with a dependent child.

Tax credits for children

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) was reduced last year back to $2,000 per qualifying child. In 2021, the American Rescue Plan had raised the maximum child tax credit to $3,600 for qualifying children under age 6 and $3,000 per child for ages 6 to 17.

The income limits for receiving the credit are $200,000 for a single individual and head of household and $400,000 for married couples filing jointly.

The amount you receive of the $2,000 maximum is based on your adjusted gross income and filing status, refundable up to $1,600. Refundable means that qualified taxpayers receive a refund of the remaining amount if the credit eliminates their tax liability. 

To find out if you are eligible, you need to fill out the Child Tax Credit worksheet included with Form 1040. If you are, you will be directed to fill out Schedule 8812 to claim the ACTC.

Child care credits for single moms

The Child and Dependent Care Credit offers a tax break for the cost of childcare for a qualified dependent including:

  • Your dependent child aged 12 or younger when they received care
  • Your disabled spouse who lived with you more than six months during the tax year
  • A disabled dependent, regardless of age, that lived with you more than six months during the tax year..

You can get a tax credit between 20% and 35% on qualifying expenses such as daycare, babysitter or nanny services, and summer or day camp. 

That means you can get a maximum credit of $1,050 for up to $3,000 of expenses for one child or dependent or up to a $2,100 credit for expenses up to $6,00 for two or more children or dependents.

The greater your adjusted gross income (AGI), the lower the percentage you get back as a credit.

It’s important to keep good records of what you paid and to whom, including their tax ID number (EIN or SSN) and the person’s or school’s address. You’ll need to provide this information to verify the expenses.

Dependent care spending account tax changes

Not to be confused with the Child and Dependent Care Credit, the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account is a helpful tax-sheltering benefit. 

If it is offered through your employer or business, you should consider taking advantage, since single heads of household can contribute up to $5,000 tax-free to pay for child care expenses for dependent children.

For some small business owners (like me), it can make sense to set up a spending account to shelter this income.

However, it is not the best option for every single mom. In some cases, the Child and Dependent Care Credit might be a better option. 

“Do the math to see which is best for your situation,” Barlin says. “So for example, if your tax rate is 25% and you put $5,000 in your flexible spending account, then your tax savings is $1,250 which is better than the dependent care credit.”

Alimony law change for 2019 and beyond

Until Jan. 1, 2019, alimony was deductible for the payor (97% of alimony payers are men, according to Census data), and taxable for the recipient (women).

That's over now.

The new law applies to divorces finalized after Dec. 31, 2018. If your divorce was final in 2019 or later, any alimony will no longer be a  deduction by the payor — or considered income for the recipient. 

For divorce decrees issued prior to January 1, 2019, alimony will continue to be deductible for the payor, and taxable to the recipient. Just like the good ol' days.

Earned income tax credit for single parents

For the 2023 tax year, the earned income credit ranges from $600 to $7,430 depending on your filing status and how many children you have.

The maximum income limit for the 2023 earned income credit is:

Maximum income limitNumber of childrenMaximum credit
$43,492One child$3,995
$49,399Two children$6,604
$53,057Three or more children$7,430

Adoption tax credit changes for 2023

If you adopted a child and the process was finalized in 2023, you are eligible for up to $15,950 per child in federal tax credits (that's $1,060 more than in 2022). Phaseouts apply beginning with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) in excess of $239,230 and completely phased out for taxpayers with MAGI of $279,230 or more.

This is one case where the federal government is a beautiful organization supporting families. Muah, IRS!

Commonly missed tax deductions and credits

Every year the IRS states that taxpayers miss out on valuable tax deductions and credits.  Don’t let that be you. These can include:

  • Earned Income Tax Credit worth up to $7,430 if you have three or more kids. The IRS estimates 1 out of 5 taxpayers missed this credit.
  • Saver’s Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) worth up to $2,000 single and $4,000 married filing jointly.  This is a credit you get just for investing to build wealth for your retirement, but 1 in 5 taxpayers also miss it.
  • Tax benefits for supporting someone other than a child like a relative or significant other. You may be eligible for the Other Dependent Credit worth up to $500 per qualifying dependent.
  • For 2023, the max deduction for student loan interest remains at $2,500. Phaseouts start with incomes of $155,000.
  • Charitable contributions (just one more reason to give). The CARES Act has made it even easier to write off donations during the 2023 tax year.
  • Job search expenses, like resume consulting, networking events, gas and other expenses to attend conferences and job interviews. If you are an ambitious single parent working toward your career goals, I hope this deduction was a big one.

Preparing your taxes, and finding all the hidden deductions and credits, doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Start with the IRS Free File Lookup Tool to get free help with tax filing.

Tax changes for the self-employed

Under tax reform, there is a 20% deduction on qualified business income for federal returns. This includes sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), S-corp, and rental property income. The 2023 phase-out ranges for this benefit is $170,050 for single filers or $340,100 for joint filers.

Logan Allec, a CPA and owner of tax relief company Choice Tax Relief, advises filers with side hustles to get serious about reporting income when filing your 2023 return. That’s because payment processors like PayPal and Venmo are now required to issue Form 1099-K to anyone who was paid over $600 for goods or services. 

In previous years, you’d only get this form if you made at least $20,000 across 200 transactions.

This form (1099-K) will be filed with the IRS, Allec says, and the IRS will likely send you a notice and possibly adjust your tax return if you don't report the income.

The good news is, when you own a business or a side hustle, you can deduct your business expenses against that income, Allec says.

When can you file your 2023 taxes?

Employers and payroll providers have to deliver (or at least postmark) tax-related paperwork by Jan. 31 each year. If you have all your documents, you can file your taxes any time you want before the deadline.

The tax deadline for tax year 2023 is April 15, 2024. If you file municipal and/or state taxes, check to see if their deadlines have been moved to April 15, too.

If you are self-employed, don't forget your quarterly estimates for the upcoming year.

You don’t have to make your 2023 4th quarter payment if you filed your full 2023 tax return by January 15, 2023, and pay the entire balance due with your return. However, if you skipped a quarterly payment or pay late, you may be subject to a penalty.

For the 2024 tax year, quarterly estimated taxes are due:

1st quarter (Jan. 1 – Mar. 31)April 15, 2024
2nd quarter (Apr. 1 – May 31)June 17, 2024
3rd quarter (Jun. 1 – Aug. 31)September 16, 2024
4th quarter (Sept. 1 – Dec. 31)January 15, 2025

If you are owed a refund, you can expect it according to the following estimated schedule:

2023 IRS Refund Schedule Chart (For filing taxes in 2024)

Date taxes acceptedDirect deposit sentPaper check mailed
Jan. 23 – Jan. 27Feb. 16Feb. 23
Jan. 28 – Feb. 3Feb. 23March 1
Feb. 4 – Feb. 10March 1March 8
Feb. 11 – Feb. 17March 8March 15
Feb. 18 – Feb. 24March 15March 22
Feb. 25 – March 2March 22March 29
March 3 – March 9March 29April 5
March 10 – March 16April 5April 12
March 17 – March 23April 12April 19
March 24 – March 30April 19April 26
March 31 – April 6April 26May 3
April 7 – April 13May 3May 10
April 14 – April 20May 10May 17
April 21 – April 27May 17May 24
April 28 – May 4May 24May 31
May 5 – May 11May 31June 7
May 12 – May 18June 7June 14
May 19 – May 25June 14June 21
May 26 – June 1June 21June 28
June 2 – June 8June 28July 5
June 9 – June 15July 5July 12
June 16 – June 22July 12July 19
June 23 – July 29July 19July 26
July 30 – July 6July 26Aug. 2
July 7 – July 13Aug. 2Aug. 9
July 14 – July 20Aug. 9Aug. 16
July 21 – July 27Aug. 16Aug. 23
July 28 – Aug. 3Aug. 23Aug. 30

*This is not an official schedule from the IRS, it is based on historic refund turnaround times.

How much does it cost to do my taxes?

Here are estimated costs for different methods of filing your taxes:

  • Doing it yourself using IRS Free File — If your AGI is $73,000 or less, you can e-file your federal and state return for free using an IRS partner’s software. Some partners may charge a fee for state e-filing, so read the fine print. The IRS also offers free fillable forms that you can print and file by mail. In addition, check with your state government for free filing options.
  • Hiring a professionalAccording to the National Society of Accounting, professional services can range from $200 to $1,000 or more depending on the preparer’s experience where you live, and the complexity of your return. 
  • Using a tax prep service — If you qualify, you can get help for free from tax prep services. You can also file yourself online with the IRS. Start here at to see what the options are.

Where you can file taxes for free


IRS Free File lets you prepare and file your federal income tax online using guided tax preparation, at an IRS partner site or Free File Fillable Forms. It's safe, easy and no cost to you for a federal return.”

The IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals.

Find a free volunteer tax preparer near you.

What to do if you can't file your taxes

Christopher Jervis, an EA with Lone Wolf Financial Services in Georgia, says the only legitimate reasons someone might not be able to file a return on time is due to severe illness, natural disaster, or death.

“Simply not being ready in time is not a good reason to not file,” he says.

How to file an extension for 2023

If you are unable to file your 2023 return by the April 18 deadline, you’ll need to file an extension with the IRS, and/ or your state tax authority to avoid any late-filing or late payment penalties. This allows you to push your deadline back six months. Check with your individual State Department of Revenue, as not all States require you to file an extension with them if you filed one with the IRS.

Remember, an extension to file is not an extension to pay if you owe money. If you do owe, you need to pay at least 90% of what you owe by the tax deadline or work out a payment plan with the IRS.

Wendy Barlin, a CPA with Barlin Business Solutions, Inc., stresses that it's much more important to file your taxes by the deadline than it is to pay them on time.

“The IRS will always negotiate with taxpayers, but only when they timely file,” she says. “Even if you don’t have the money to pay, please always file something.”

To file an extension, you can fill out this IRS form and mail it in.

Jervis says in most cases, you can file for an extension and get up to six additional months to file. However, if you owe taxes, you're still expected to pay by the regular due date (April 15, 2024 for the 2023 filing year) and will likely have to pay penalties and interest for failing to do so. That's why it's better to file on time but work with the IRS on a payment plan if your reason for not filing is financial.

“If at all possible, file the return, even if you can't pay,” he says.

The penalty for not filing is 5% of the tax owed per month, up to 25%. This can get significantly higher than the interest and penalty for not paying on time. By filing on time, you avoid having the sum owed increase faster than you can pay it off.

Jervis says that filing the return assesses the tax that is due, which starts the statute of limitations — which is typically 10 years.

If the IRS is unable to collect during that period, they are prohibited from continued attempts to collect and will likely write off the expense as an uncollected debt, Jervis says.

For example, if you file your 2017 return in 2023, the 10-year collection period now runs through 2033. Had you filed in 2017, the collection period would have expired in 2027 (under normal circumstances). By not filing, the IRS was essentially granted a 6-year extension to try to get money from you.

But … what are the consequences?

Barlin says a lot of people fear the IRS will come after them with jail time if they aren't able to pay their taxes by the deadline.

“Unless you owe millions of dollars, you are not going to jail and no one will come to your home and harass you,” Barlin says. “Worst case, you get a nasty notice from the IRS.”

IRS wage garnishment

Barlin says the IRS can only garnish your wages after they've sent out multiple notices, which is why it's important to respond to any notices you do receive.

“Remember, it’s a person on the other end of the phone,” Barlin says. “Explain your situation, and most often, the IRS agent will do their best to help. They are not out to get you. These are people doing their jobs, just like we do ours.”

There are certain provisions for filing tax returns in the event of a natural disaster or death, such as extended due dates or having a surviving spouse or relative file the return, Jervis says.

“Try to file the return on time, or at least file an extension,” Jervis says. “There is some thought that filing an extension increases the chances of audit, but that's not really accurate. Not filing at all is a much, much higher audit risk, particularly when income is being reported to the IRS by third parties (W-2s, 1099s, etc.).”

He says if these third-party reports (particularly 1099s) indicate that you will likely owe taxes and you continue to refuse to file, the IRS can file a tax return on your behalf, called a Substitute For Return. It is essentially the IRS doing a tax return for you, in the most disadvantageous way possible.

“They will assume you are single, with no dependents, and have no deductions,” Jervis says. “This results in the highest tax bill possible, and then they will move on to collection activities, like garnishing wages, placing liens on property, and levying (freezing or emptying) bank accounts.”

IRS payment plan

EA Manasa Nadig of MN Tax and Business Services says if you cannot pay your taxes by the due date, you can enter into an installment agreement with the IRS.

If you owe less than $50,000, you can log onto to set up an auto debit plan for a maximum of 72 months. Interest fees could be waived for those with qualifying incomes. 

Barlin notes that the IRS interest rate is much lower than any credit card rate, so it's usually better to do a payment plan than use a credit card to pay your taxes.

If your taxes owed are more than $50,000, you'll have to work with an enrolled agent or other professional who is an expert at setting you up with a plan or getting your payment reduced based on your circumstances, Nadig says.

Jervis says another option is to petition for the IRS to deem you “Currently Not Collectible,” which means the IRS reviews your income and assets and determines that — at the moment — you have no ability to pay the debt, but you may be able to in the future.

The IRS will review your finances periodically to determine if you can begin paying on the debt, Jervis says. If your situation has changed such that you can pay, then you must reach some resolution, such as entering into an installment agreement, to prevent advanced collection activity (liens, levies, and garnishments).

“The really good thing about the CNC status is that the 10 years Statute of Limitations continues to count down,” he says. “I have seen taxpayers who were assessed a balance and never had to pay because the statute ran its full 10-year course before the taxpayer's financial status changed.”

The more complicated option if you can't pay is an Offer in Compromise. An OIC is a lengthy and costly negotiation and application process in which the taxpayer submits a full financial statement to the IRS that includes their assets, income, and monthly expenses. From that, a calculation is made to determine how much, if any, leftover income can be used to pay the debt before the statute of limitations expires. Because they would be essentially erasing some or all of your tax debt, the IRS may disallow certain expenses as luxurious or unnecessary.

“Your kids have karate, softball, and ballet that costs you $800 a month? Sorry, that's $800 a month that can be used to pay your taxes,” Jervis says. “You are a married couple with no dependents or children at home living in a 5-bedroom house with a $2,800 a month payment, in an area where the average housing price for that type of household is $1,600? Sorry, you can tap into your home equity to pay, or you can downsize to a less costly home.”

AN OIC can take nine to 18 months to process, and during that period, the 10-year Statute of Limitations period stops ticking away.

“This can be detrimental if the offer is rejected because you essentially extended their ability to collect by another year,” Jervis says. “But it can be a great benefit if it is accepted. I have seen OICs settled for half of what was owed, or 20%, or even 10%. And in some cases, the IRS simply wipes the entire debt away; this is quite rare, and you must demonstrate that there is no likelihood of you being able to pay anything by the end of the statute period.”

Fees vary by office, but most tax professionals who handle OICs charge anywhere from $1,500 to many thousands of dollars and usually require the fee to be paid in advance or require a large retainer, Jervis says.

How to file back taxes

If you haven't filed taxes for some years, or skipped some years, here are the steps for filing back taxes:

1. Gather information

Gather your W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, and info for any deductions or credits you may qualify for for the year you wish to file for.

If you lost those documents, IRS's Form 4506-T allows you to request a transcript of your tax return information for the past 10 years — even if you haven't filed a tax return.

However, only you can generate documents re: credits and deductions.

2. Complete and file your tax return

You can find all the documents for each year on the IRS website, then file according to instructions.

Best tax relief companies of 2024

Bottom line: Understand the tax changes for 2024 and take advantage of every single parent tax credit

The tax experts in this post agree that it’s worth taking time to get educated on single parent tax credits, whether you use a tax professional or go the DIY route. Staying on top of tax changes can also help you maximize your refund.

While you prepare for this tax season, keep the following in mind:

  • If you are eligible for head of household status, claim it. It will give you a higher standard deduction and a lower tax rate than filing as single.
  • Include everyone that you can legally claim as a dependent when you file, since you get higher tax credits and steeper deductions.
  • Take advantage of every credit you are eligible for: Child Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, Earned Income Credit, Saver’s Credit, Adoption Credit, and more
  • Know how tax changes affect you. For example, if you are self-employed or have a side gig and are paid via PayPal or other payment processors, your income will now be filed with the IRS. Keep good records to avoid IRS adjustments.
  • If you pay alimony, it’s no longer deductible as of 2019.


  1. “Filing Season Statistics for Week Ending December 30, 2022,” IRS.
How much does a single mom get back in taxes?

There is no standard tax return refund amount for a single mother, a married mom, or anyone for that matter, though the average refund in 2022 was $3,252.

Is there a single parent tax credit?

Single moms can take advantage of special tax credits like the Additional Child Tax Credit for 2023, file as head of household for better tax breaks, and benefit from exemptions and deductions to reduce their tax burden.

When can you file your 2023 taxes?

Employers and payroll providers have to deliver (or at least postmark) tax-related paperwork by Jan. 31 each year. If you have all your documents, you can file your taxes any time you want before the deadline, which is April 15, 2024.


Yes, in general that is considered a hobby … but you might be able to deduct them if they are provided through an after-school program or day camp.

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