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Death of a Taxpayer

If a taxpayer dies in 2021 before his/her 2020 return is filed, the taxpayer's spouse or personal representative may have to file and sign a return for that taxpayer. A personal representative can be an executor, administrator, or anyone who is in charge of the deceased taxpayer's property. If the deceased taxpayer didn't have to file a return but had tax withheld, a return must be filed to get a refund. The person who files the return must enter “Deceased,” the deceased taxpayer's name, and the date of death across the top of the return. If this information isn't provided, it may delay the processing of the return

If your spouse died in 2020 and you didn't remarry in 2020, or if your spouse died in 2021 before filing a return for 2020, you can file a joint return. A joint return should show your spouse's 2020 income before death and your income for all of 2020. Enter “Filing as surviving spouse” in the area where you sign the return. If someone else is the personal representative, he or she also must sign.

The surviving spouse or personal representative should promptly notify all payers of income, including financial institutions, of the taxpayer's death. This will ensure the proper reporting of income earned by the taxpayer's estate or heirs. A deceased taxpayer's social security number shouldn't be used for tax years after the year of death, except for estate tax return purposes.

Claiming a Refund for a Deceased Taxpayer

If you are filing a joint return as a surviving spouse, you only need to file the tax return to claim the refund. If you are a court-appointed representative, file the return and include a copy of the certificate that shows your appointment. All other filers requesting the deceased tax-payer's refund must file the return and attach Form 1310 Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer.

To enter the death of a taxpayer or spouse in TaxAct:

  1. From within your TaxAct return (Online or Desktop), click Federal. On smaller devices, click in the upper left-hand corner, then click Federal.
  2. In the Federal Quick Q&A Topics menu, click Basic Info to expand, then click Taxpayer or spouse deceased.
  3. After you enter the date of death for the appropriate spouse, TaxAct will print "Deceased", the name of the decedent, and the date of death at the top of Form 1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Note that any link in the information above is updated each year automatically and will take you to the most recent version of the document at the time it is accessed.

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