Updated for filing 2021 tax returns
When your spouse dies, the IRS provides a short-term additional tax break in the form of a special filing status called qualifying widow(er). 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—you wouldn't claim the widow(er) status right away. Instead, you would file a joint return and include all of your income and deductions for the full year (but only your spouse’s income and deductions until the date of death).
The Next Two Years
For two tax years after the year your spouse died, you can file as a qualifying widow(er), which gets 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 or stepchild (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.
To see this year's widow(er) standard deduction amount, check out our Filing Status page.
Keep your spouse's information to claim the widow(er) status
To claim the status, you'll need to provide your spouse’s name, SSN, and date of death. Be sure to keep that information handy, along with your dependent's info. If you'd like help keeping everyone's names, dates, and numbers organized, use our Taxes for Families checklist.
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