Renner Individual News; July 5, 2022

There’s nothing easy about losing a loved one. Filing his or her final tax return doesn’t have to be difficult, though.

“Gather what (documents) you have and then call us,” said John J. Renner, II, CPA and founder of Renner and Company. “It’s difficult because it’s mysterious. It’s the unknown. That’s why you should call us. We can help you through the unknown.”

When a person passes away, the surviving spouse or representative files the final tax return for him or her. On the return, the surviving spouse or representative notes that the person has died, and the IRS doesn’t need any other notification of death.

Typically, the individual filing the final return is named in the person’s will or appointed by a court. If there isn’t a surviving spouse or appointed representative, a personal representative files the final return.

“Most of the time, the surviving spouse doesn’t have any idea what’s going on, so gathering the information is tough,” Mr. Renner said. “What’s there, what do I have to get … once they realize what they have to get, it’s not that hard.”

Be Ready Ahead of Time

There’s no surefire way to prepare for filing that final tax return. But steps can be taken well ahead of time to make the process smoother. Most revolve around good recordkeeping and information sharing.

“It helps (the surviving spouse) that needs to gather the information to have access to online accounts such as brokerages, retirements, social security,” said Justyna Zuchmanska, CPA, Senior Tax Manager at Renner and Company. “A lot of information is moving away from being provided by paper and if (the person filing) is not authorized to access the account, it takes longer to obtain the information.”

Things To Keep In Mind

  • The IRS considers someone married for the entire year that his or her husband or wife died if he or she does not remarry during that year.
  • Surviving spouse is eligible to use filing status married filing jointly or married filing separately.
  • Final return is due by regular April tax date unless surviving spouse or representative gets an extension to file.

When e-filing, the surviving spouse or representative should follow the directions provided for correct signature and notation requirements. For paper returns, the filer should write “deceased,” the deceased person’s name and the date of death across the top.

Where To Find Out More

More detailed information about who should sign the return, as well as other documents to include, can be found here.

The IRS doesn’t need a copy of the death certificate or other proof of death. For any questions about this process or estate planning, contact Renner and Company here or give us a call at (703) 535-1200.

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