When a person dies, the personal representative is responsible for
filing certain tax returns for the decedent, and the decedent's
estate. As the personal representative, you may be required to file:
the final income tax return of the decedent and any returns not filed
for preceding years, the U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and
Trusts, and the United States Estate Tax Return.
The filing requirements that apply to individuals will determine if a
final income tax return is required for the decedent. Tele-tax Topic
351, Who Must File?, will help you.
Whether income must be included or deductions may be taken on the
final return is determined by the method of accounting used by the
decedent. Most individuals use the cash method. Under this method,
the final return should show only the items of income that the
decedent actually received, or had an unqualified right to receive,
before death. Only the expenses the decedent paid before death should
be deducted. If the decedent used the accrual method, see Publication
559, Survivors, Executors, and Administrators. Publication 538,
Accounting Periods and Methods, contains more information about the
cash and accrual methods.
The complexity of the decedent's reportable income will determine
which individual return form to file. If a personal representative
has been appointed, that person must sign the return. If it is a
joint return, the surviving spouse also must sign it.
If you are a surviving spouse filing a joint return and no personal
representative has been appointed, you should sign the return and
write in the signature area, "Filing as surviving spouse." If no
personal representative has been appointed and there is no surviving
spouse, see Publication 559.
The final return should have the word "Deceased", the decedent's
name, and the date of death written across the top of the return.
Generally, the person who is filing a return for a decedent and
claiming a refund must file Form 1310, Statement of Person Claiming
Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer, along with a copy of the death
certificate. However, if you are a surviving spouse filing a joint
return, a court appointed or certified personal representative, you
do not need to file the 1310. Court appointed or certified personal
representatives must attach a copy of the certificate showing the
appointment to the return.
The second return is Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates
and Trusts. It must be filed if the gross income of the estate is
$600 or more, or if a beneficiary is a nonresident alien. The third
return you may have to file is Form 706, United States Estate and
Generation Skipping Transfer Tax Return. Whether you must file a Form
706 depends on the value of the gross estate. A return is required
for a U.S. citizen or resident whose gross estate is more than
Refer to Topic 557 for additional information on estate tax.
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