Decedents: Income Tax Filing

A personal representative (fiduciary) is responsible for filing certain tax returns for a person who has died, and for the decedent's estate. The personal representative may be required to file the final income tax return of the decedent and any returns not filed for preceding years, the income tax return for the estate, and the estate tax return.

The filing requirements that apply to individuals will determine if a final income tax return is required for the decedent.

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 the decedent actually received, that were credited to his account, or that were made available to him without restriction before death. Generally, expenses the decedent paid before death should be deducted on the final return. If the decedent used the accrual method, refer to Publication 559, Survivors, Executors, and Administrators, and Publication 538, Accounting Periods and Methods, for further information.

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 (PDF) , Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer, with the return. However, if you are a surviving spouse filing a joint return, or a court appointed or certified personal representative filing an original return for the decedent, you do not have to file Form 1310. Personal representatives must attach to the return a copy of the court certificate showing the appointment.

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, the person in charge of the decedent's property must file and sign the return as "personal representative."

Please refer to the Form 1041 Instructions to determine if a Form 1041 (PDF), U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, is required to be filed.

You may have to file Form 706 (PDF), United States Estate (and Generation Skipping Transfer) Tax Return. Please refer to the Form 706 Instructions to determine if a Form 706 is required to be filed.