Qualifying widow status: Guide to filing taxes after losing a spouse

The death of a spouse is one of life’s most devastating experiences. The last thing you might want to think about is how your loss will affect your taxes.

But a change in marital standing for any reason will make a difference within how you file your own taxes. Fortunately, the INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE supplies a way to relieve the transition in your own tax filing status plus tax rates: the being qualified widow(er) tax filing standing.
Filing status basics

1 of the first containers you check on your own federal return is the particular one indicating your taxes filing status. It’s essential to pick the proper status as the choice impacts the amount of fees you pay, the regular deductions you can get, certain tax breaks a person can claim — actually whether you have in order to file at all.

The particular IRS recognizes five submitting statuses: single, married submitting jointly, married filing individually, head of household plus qualifying widow(er). The taxes brackets are identical for combined filers and qualifying widows. Out of the a hundred and fifty million-plus federal returns submitted for the 2016 taxes year, more than 54 million people used these two statuses, according to the IRS.

If you qualify for more than one status, the IRS says you can file using the one that results in the least tax.
Qualifying widow(er) status

When your spouse was alive, you probably both used a filing status of married filing jointly or married filing separately, depending on whether you filed a joint return or separate returns. When a spouse passes away, the surviving spouse may be able to use the qualifying widow status, which provides many of the same tax benefits as the married filing jointly status.

But there are rules for who can use this status and when you can use it.

After a death, “to get hit with that larger tax bill is sometimes kind of shocking for the (surviving) spouse, ” says Kristin Ingram, certified public accountant at Accounting In Focus and an accounting lecturer at University of Hartford. “This (qualifying widow) status is designed to ease the transition to help with that. ”
Common question
When did filing statuses first appear on federal income tax forms?

The filing statuses we know today — single, head of household, qualifying widow or widower, married filing jointly, and married filing separately — debuted in the past century. They first appeared on the federal Form 1040 in 1961.
Being qualified widow(er) eligibility requirements

Within the year your partner passes away, you can use possibly the married filing with each other status or filing individually status — not being qualified widow(er) — as lengthy as you don’t marry again in that taxes year.

If you remarry in the same 12 months of your spouse’s dying, you’d file your come back with your new partner underneath the joint or individual status. If remarried plus you’re required to document a return for the departed spouse, their status might be married filing individually. That’s as the deceased partner typically has income that should be reported to the INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE. The status of wedded filing separately requires partners to utilize the same strategy to deductions — possibly you must both take those standard deduction or each itemize deductions.

You might make use of the qualifying widow standing for 2 years after the particular year of the spouse’s dying as long as a person remain unmarried. To make use of this status for the particular 2018 tax year, almost all these descriptions must affect you:

Your spouse passed away in 2016 or 2017, and also you didn’t remarry prior to the conclusion of 2018.
You could have filed as married filing jointly with your spouse for the year your spouse died.
You can claim a child, stepchild or adopted child (but not a foster child) as your dependent and the dependent fulfills other requirements. Check out the rules on who qualifies as a dependent.
You paid for more than half the cost of keeping up a home. This must be your child’s main home for the entire year, except for temporary absences.

For the 2018 tax year, qualifying widow(er)s are required to file a federal income tax return if they are:

Younger than 65 with a gross income of at least $24, 000.
65 years or older with a gross income of at least $25, 300.

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