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How to fill out your late loved one’s tax return if they worked last year

Consumer Investigations

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Tax-filing season is about to begin, and if you had a loved one who passed away that worked last year, you may be responsible for filing their 2020 tax return.

If you’ve become court-appointed to be a personal representative for a family member who passed away this year, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Erica Guatieri said you’ll need to fill out a tax return on their behalf.

“You want to close that Social Security Number out,” Guatieri said.

Guatieri said there could be problems if someone gets ahold of the SSN and the IRS is unaware the person has passed away.

The IRS Publication 559 Survivors, Executors, and Administrators details which form you’ll need to submit and has step-by step instructions on how to fill it out.

“The 1040 does become marked up, it will say deceased above their name and have the date of their death,” Guatieri said.

Guatieri stressed the importance of including credits and deductions when filing.

“Even though medical expenses are somewhat limited to 7.5% of your adjusted gross income … you could still be able to itemize and take some of those deductions … not only do you need to put the income, but you’re allowed to pick up any deductions that are related to that decedent.”

If your spouse passed away last year, Guatieri said you can still file jointly.

“You’d mark the return with the date of death so the IRS can document that Social Security Number should be flagged now that someone has passed away,” Guatieri said.

If there’s a refund, Guatieri said you’d need to file a 1310 form at the time of the return in order to claim it. If the person owes money, Guatieri said that’s considered their estate and becomes a debt.

“Hopefully there’s monies there for you to be able to pay that liability,” Guatieri said. If it’s not, she said the IRS has a payment plan option to help you through it.

If your loved one died and was sent a stimulus payment, that also needs to be shipped back to the IRS.

Here are the steps the IRS wants you to take when returning it:

  • Write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
  • Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location.
  • Don’t staple, bend or paper clip the check.
  • Include a brief explanation of why they return the check.

Guatieri said there are other tax filing requirements for estates and trusts as well, but it can be complicated. She recommends you find a local CPA you trust to guide you through the process.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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