Filing a final tax return

Your Guide to State, Local, Federal, Estate + International Taxation

After a death, a final tax return will need to be filed. IRS Tax Tip 2022-96 outlines helpful reminders on how to file a tax return for the deceased. The IRS does not need special notification that the person has died, simply noting the death on the final tax return will do the trick.

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The decedent’s final individual tax return (Form 1040) should be filed by their surviving spouse or the representative of their estate. The representative is typically named in the decedent’s will or appointed by a court.

On the final tax return, if the decedent was married, the surviving spouse is considered for tax purposes as married to the decedent for the entire year (unless they remarry before year end). The surviving spouse is eligible to use the Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separate filing statuses for that year.

The final tax return follows the same due date rules and is for the calendar year, due on the regular April tax deadline. Surviving spouses with dependent children can potentially use the filing status of Qualifying Widow(er) for up to two years after their spouse’s death. Under this filing status they continue to utilize the higher joint standard deduction and the joint return rates.

When signing the return, the filer should make sure that the word “Deceased” and the date of death appears next to the deceased taxpayer’s name. Any appointed representative must sign the return, but if it is a joint return, the surviving spouse must also sign. If there is no appointed representative, the surviving spouse can sign for both taxpayers, and must write in the signature area “filing as surviving spouse”.

Any court appointment representative should attach to the return the court document showing their appointment. In some cases Form 1310, Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer, must also be attached in order for the IRS to send out the deceased taxpayer’s refund.

The IRS notes that they do not need a copy of the death certificate or any other proof of death.

Questions? Contact your Henry+Horne advisor, we’re here to help!

Haley M. Braun, CPA

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