Filing Taxes as a Widow or Widower | Phoenix Tax Consultants

Filing Taxes as a Widow or Widower

Are you recently widowed or having to file your tax returns for the first time since the passing of your spouse? We understand this is a difficult time and can be confusing and emotional. Our team at Phoenix Tax Consultants is here to guide you through this process. Below we have outlined helpful information for filing taxes as a widow. 

Qualifying widow or widower” is a tax filing status that allows you to claim the same benefits as the Married Filing Jointly status for 2 years after the year of your spouse’s passing. 

Interestingly, the full official name of this filing status is Qualifying Widow(er) with a Dependent Child so to file as a qualifying widow/widower, you must have a dependent child. If you meet the IRS requirements for this status, you can basically get the same tax breaks as people filing a joint return – but only for a particular duration after the death of your spouse. 

However, you’ll need to follow a few guidelines to meet the standards for qualifying widows/widowers.

Mandatory IRS Criteria for Qualifying Widows and Widowers

Here are some straightforward rules that will determine whether you can use the filing status of qualifying widow/widower:

  • No more than 2 years have passed between the tax year for which you are filing the return and your spouse’s death.
  • You did not remarry during the 2 years after the year your spouse died. For example, if your spouse passed away in 2016, and you did not remarry before January 1st, 2019.
  • Your (dependent) child or stepchild must have lived with you throughout the year (temporary absences are an exception and incidents like death, birth, or kidnapping count as exceptions).

If you have more questions about the qualifying widow/widower filing status, this IRS publication can be extremely helpful.

Short-Term Additional Tax Breaks for Qualifying Widows and Widowers

The IRS offers an additional tax break for a short duration in the case one spouse dies. If you have lost your beloved spouse and want to use the filing status of qualifying widow/widower, here are some things to keep in mind:

The First Year

You are still allowed to file a joint return the year your spouse passed away, only if the executor approved the joint return and you didn’t remarry. But you can’t file a joint return if either you or your spouse was a non-resident alien at any time during the year. 

If you decide to file a joint return, make sure you include all of your income and deductions for the entirety of the year. Also include the income and deductions of your spouse until the date of their demise. If your late spouse owes any taxes and the estate is unable to pay them, you – the surviving spouse – might be liable for those taxes. 

The Next 2 Years

After the year your spouse passed away, you can file as a qualifying widow/widower for 2 tax years. Filing this way will provide you a lower tax rate and a higher standard deduction than if you filed as a head of household or single person. 

As long as you meet the IRS criteria mentioned above, you can take advantage of this filing status for the next 2 years after the year in which your spouse died. This detailed IRS guide can help you learn more about the filing status of a qualifying widow or widower. 

Use the Tax Breaks You Deserve

Losing a spouse can be emotionally and financially devastating, especially if you are raising a child. By claiming these tax savings for qualifying widows and widowers, you may be able to soften the financial blow a little. 

If you have any questions about filing your income taxes this year, or want to talk to a skilled tax professional for a bit of free advice, please call us at 610-933-3507 or leave us a message here.

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