Death is No Excuse
The federal government is an equal-opportunity tax assessor. Even the dead can’t escape taxes.
The final accounting required of the deceased is not limited to an estate tax filing, but a federal income tax return must also be filed for the year in which the taxpayer passes. Please consult a professional with tax expertise if you find yourself in this situation.¹
Filing for the Deceased
Of course, the deceased can’t file his or her own return, so that responsibility usually falls to the estate’s executor or administrator. Here are the highlights of how a tax return is filed in the name of a deceased individual.
- The form used is the same as the one that would have been used if the taxpayer were still alive, but “deceased” is written after the taxpayer’s name.
- The filing deadline is April 15 of the year following the taxpayer’s death.
- Some income that might appear to belong on the decedent’s final return may in fact be taxable to the estate or to the beneficiary who receives it. Otherwise known as “income in respect of a decedent,” this is income that the decedent was entitled to receive at the time of death, but is not reported on the final income tax return.
- Deductible expenses paid before death can be utilized on the final return. The cost of a final illness can be deducted on the deceased’s return even if the bills were paid after the date of death.
- If the taxpayer was married, the widow or widower may file a joint return. The executor usually files a joint return, but the surviving spouse can file it if no executor or administrator has been appointed.
- When an executor or administrator is involved, he or she must sign the return for the decedent. For a joint return, the spouse must also sign.
- If a refund is due, you should also complete and file a copy of Form 1310, Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer.²
- The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties.
- IRS.gov, 2018