When your spouse dies, the IRS provides a short-term additional tax break in the form of a special filing status, qualifying widow(er) with qualifying child. Here are the details about using this filing status after the loss of a spouse.
The First Year
The year that your spouse dies, you can still file a joint return if you didn’t remarry and the executor approves the joint return. But if either spouse was a nonresident alien at any time during the year, the surviving spouse can’t file a joint return.
If you do file jointly, include all of your income and deductions for the full year, but only your spouse’s income and deductions until the date of death. If the deceased spouse owes any taxes that the estate can’t pay, you as the surviving spouse may be liable for the amounts owed.
The Next Two Years
For two tax years after the year your spouse died, you can file as a qualifying widow or widower. This filing status gives you a higher standard deduction and lower tax rate than filing as a single person. You must meet these requirements:
- You haven’t remarried.
- You must have a dependent child (not a foster child) who lived with you all year, and you must have paid over half the maintenance costs of your home.
- You must have been able to file jointly in the year of your spouse’s death, even if you didn’t.
Filing as a Widow(er)
Just select the filing status on the Name & Address screen in your 1040.com return, then provide your spouse’s name, SSN and date of death.
And remember, for the year your spouse died, use the married filing joint filing status. Then for two years after, you can use the qualifying widow(er) filing status.