Surviving Spouse Tax Filing Status

By | January 30, 2014

What tax issues occur after a spouse dies?

After a spouse dies, typically the other living spouse will qualify for a special tax filing status that will allow them to take advantage of certain tax benefits. Particularly, a surviving spouse or also known as a qualifying widower, may use the joint return tax rates for two tax years following the year of death of the husband or wife, but only if the survivor remains unmarried and maintains a household for the entire tax year. Maintaining a household is similar to head of household status and means that they maintain a place that is is the principal place of abode of a child, adopted child, foster child, or stepchild for whom the taxpayer is entitled to the dependency exemption. A federal tax filing status available to widows and widowers for two years after their spouse’s death.


Surviving Spouse Tax Filing Status

Qualifying Widow (or Qualifying Widower) is a filing status that allows you to retain the benefits of the Married Filing Jointly status for two years after the year of your spouse’s death. You must have a dependent child in order to file as a Qualifying Widow or Widower. This status can only be used by a widow(er) who lives with a dependent child and has not remarried. It may apply for the year in which their spouse passed away, and it can be used for up to 2 years after their spouse’s death


What is Surviving Spouse Tax Filing Status?

A taxpayer qualifies as a surviving spouse must use the joint return rate schedule (Schedule Y-1) and must use either Form 1040 or Form 1040A. It is important to remember that this benefit is only afforded to a surviving spouse only if he or she was entitled to file a joint return with the deceased spouse for the tax year in which the deceased spouse died. This means that if a divorce or something else was going on, the status would not be valid.

Filing a tax return as a surviving spouse only allows the surviving spouse to take advantage of special tax brackets. This filing status does not authorize him or her to file a joint return or claim any personal exemptions other than his or her own and those of the dependent or dependents for whom the household is maintained.


Surviving spouse with dependent children

For example, for 2014, a surviving spouse with dependent children is generally entitled to joint return rate benefits if the spouse died at any time during 2012 or 2013. Online Tax preparation software will have questions that determine if a taxpayer is eligible to file a tax return under the special surviving spouse tax filing status.


IMPORTANT: Claiming Surviving Spouse Tax Filing Status

Remember, to claim this status, the IRS also requires that the taxpayer have a child who will be claimed as a dependent, that the child live in the home with the widow/widower all year, that the widow/widower will pay over half the cost of keeping up his or her home, and that the widow/widower was eligible to file a joint return in the year the spouse died.