Income Tax Return for a Deceased Taxpayer

Are you aware that a final Form 1040 should be filed for a deceased taxpayer? 

Usually, the surviving spouse or the estate representative files a final individual income tax return for the deceased taxpayer. 

If there is a surviving spouse, the return is filed with the same filing status as prior returns were filed.  The surviving spouse benefits from the full exemption/deduction of the deceased spouse regardless of when during the year the death occurred.  A notation is made on the return of the date of death.

If there is no surviving spouse, the estate representative files a return for the time the decedent was alive during the tax year.  If the decedent died on June 5, for example, all income received by the decedent from January 1 to June 5 should be reported on the final individual income tax return.  All income earned after June 5 should be reported on a fiduciary income tax return – Form 1041. 

If the decedent is entitled to a refund of an overpayment of tax, Form 1310 must be completed and filed by the estate representative.  However, if the decedent is survived by a spouse, this form may not be required. 

In addition to filing a decedent’s final Form 1040, IRS Form 56 – Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship should be filed.  The filing of this Form notifies the IRS of the passing of the taxpayer and states the information for the party who is handling the affairs of the decedent.  If this Form is not filed, there is no defense if the IRS should mail any type of notice to the deceased taxpayer which is not received and therefore the required action not taken. 

The death of a taxpayer does not grant any special filing or payment deadlines.  If it is determined that the final tax return cannot be completed and filed by the income tax deadline, then an extension can be requested.  Please note that this extension is an extension to file but not an extension of time to pay any taxes due. 


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About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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