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Are You Eligible To File Taxes As A Qualifying Widow(er)?

 

The loss of a spouse is a traumatic loss to endure, especially if there were also young children left behind.  If the deceased spouse was the family breadwinner, then the emotional devastation is coupled with financial uncertainty.  Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Code provides a substantial tax break to qualifying widows or widowers to get through this difficult time.  It is worth the time to see if you qualify.

The tax rates for a qualifying widow(er) are the same as a married couple filing jointly.  For 2019, the tax brackets are as follows:

  • If taxable income is not over $19,400, then the tax is 10% of taxable income.
  • If taxable income is over $19,400 but not over $78,950, then the tax is $1,940 plus 12% of the excess over $19,400.
  • If taxable income is over $78,950 but not over $168,400, then the tax is $9,086 plus 22% of the excess over $78,950.
  • If taxable income is over $168,400 but not over $321,450, then the tax is $28,765 plus 24% of the excess over $168,400.
  • If taxable income is over $321,450 but not over $408,200, then the tax is $65,497 plus 32% of the excess over $321,450.
  • If taxable income is over $408,200 but not over $612,350, then the tax is $93,257 plus 35% of the excess over $408,200.
  • If taxable income is over $612,350, then the tax is $164,709 plus 37% of the excess over $612,350.

To file as a qualifying widow(er), the taxpayer must meet ALL of the following:

  • The taxpayer’s spouse died during either of the two taxable years immediately preceding the current tax year. 26 U.S.C. §2(a)(1)(A).
  • The taxpayer did not remarry during the tax year. 26 U.S.C. §2(a)(2)(A).
  • The taxpayer was entitled to file a joint return with the deceased spouse in the year that the spouse died (it doesn’t matter that a joint return wasn’t actually filed). 26 U.S.C. §2(a)(2)(B).
  • The taxpayer maintains as his or her a household where the taxpayer furnishes over half of the cost of maintaining the household. 26 U.S.C. §2(a)(1)(B).
  • The taxpayer’s home is the principal place of abode (as a member of such household) of a child or stepchild (not foster child) of the taxpayer who can be claimed as a dependent. 26 U.S.C. §2(a)(1)(B).
  • The child or stepchild must satisfy ALL of the following:
    1. Must not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. 26 U.S.C. 152(b)(1).
    2. Must not have filed a joint return. 26 U.S.C. 152(b)(2).
    3. Gross income for the year is less than $4,150.00. 26 U.S.C. §152(d)(1)(B).

The qualifying widow(er) filing status has more significant tax savings than filing single or head of household. Prior to the tax year beginning Jan. 1, 2018, a qualifying widower filer can claim a standard deduction amount of $12,700.00. The passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the “Act”) increased this amount significantly.  For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017 and before Jan. 1, 2026, the standard deduction is increased to $24,400.00 if under age 65 ($25,700.00 if older than age 65). If the “sunset provision” on this standard deduction increase is not extended by 2026, then the standard deduction will revert to pre-Act levels indexed for inflation.

The increase in the standard deduction is intended to off-set the suspension of claiming personal exemptions for dependents for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017 and before Jan. 1, 2026. Despite this suspension, the rules for defining an exemption remain for determining whether you have a dependent for qualifying widow(er) purposes. If the “sunset provision” on the suspension of personal exemptions is not extended by 2026, then the exemption amount will revert to pre-Act levels indexed for inflation.

If you lost your spouse in the last two years, you should see if you qualify to file as a qualifying widow for some additional financial relief during this difficult time.  If you have questions about qualifying widow(er) status or any other aspect of federal taxation, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.

 

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