Surviving spouses receive the same standard deduction and tax rates as taxpayers who are filing Married Filing Jointly. In the year of your spouse’s death, if you do not remarry, you can file a joint return with your deceased spouse. For the following two years, you can use the Qualifying Widow/Widower with Dependent Child filing status, if you have a dependent child living with you. After two years, if you have not remarried, you must change your filing status to either Single or Head of Household, depending on your circumstances.
You can consider the Qualifying Widow(er) filing status if you are a widow(er) and:
• You could have filed a joint return with your spouse for the year your spouse died.
• Your spouse died in either of the two tax years preceding this current year.
• You have a child or stepchild who qualifies as a dependent. (Note that this does not include a foster child.)
• You paid over half the costs of keeping up a home for the entire year.
• The child lived in your home all year, except for periods of temporary absence.
Note however, that the surviving spouse cannot continue to claim an exemption for the deceased spouse in the two years that he or she is allowed to use the QW filing status; he or she can only claim the filing status, and thus take the same standard deduction as a married couple filing jointly.
The primary objective of this article is to empower taxpayers to learn to do their own taxes. For information on how to choose the correct filing status, grab yourself a copy of “Doing Your Own Taxes is as Easy as 1, 2, 3,” ($6.98) on TaxConnections.com.