There is an old adage that says “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Ironically, however, even the death of a taxpayer does not eliminate his need to file a tax return. After the death of a taxpayer, a personal representative or surviving spouse will need to file a tax return on the decedent’s behalf.
To ensure that the tax return is handled properly, the IRS provides the following information regarding filing a tax return on behalf of a taxpayer who has passed:
Who Should File a Tax Return on Behalf of the Deceased?
The person in charge of the decedent’s estate will likely be the same person who files the tax return on his or her behalf. This may be a surviving spouse, adult child, executor or administrator of the estate. The person who files the income tax return is generally the same person who is in charge of filing the estate tax return. The IRS provides information detailing the responsibilities of the personal representative of a decedent in Survivors, Executors and Administrators Publication 559.
Is a Tax Return Required for All Decedents?
To determine whether or not a tax return must be filed for a decedent, the personal representative can refer to Your Federal Income Tax Publication 17 for detailed information and instructions.
How to File a Return
Filing the tax return for the decedent is similar in many ways to filing a regular tax return. To make sure that the IRS knows that the return is being filed for a deceased person, include the name of the decedent, the date of his or her death and the word “deceased” at the top of the tax return. This allows the IRS to make the appropriate changes on their files in order to properly handle any future tax situations.
When filing a tax return for a deceased person, it is important to report any wages or income received by the decedent prior to his or her passing. Deductions and credits must reflect only those transactions that occurred prior to the deceased taxpayer’s date of death. In most cases, the full standard deduction can be claimed if not itemizing expenses paid before the decedent’s passing.
If a tax refund is due to the decedent on his or her personal income tax return, it may be necessary to file IRS Form 1310 in order to claim the deceased taxpayer’s refund. The person filing the tax return should file his or her name as the personal representative or, in the event of a surviving spouse, a notation should be made stating “filing as surviving spouse.”
After filing a personal income tax return for a decedent, it may be necessary to file an estate income tax return to report any financial transactions occurring after the date of death. Any income received after the date of death is considered part of the decedent’s estate and will be reported on the estate income tax return.
Anyone who has questions regarding the proper handling of taxes for a decedent can seek the advise of a tax professional to ensure that all information is accurately and correctly reported to the IRS.