Qualifying Widow or Qualifying Widower Filing Status

What Is Qualifying Widow or Qualifying Widower?

Qualifying Widow (or Qualifying Widower) is a filing status that allows you to retain the benefits of the Married Filing Jointly status for two years after the year of your spouse's death.

You must have a dependent child in order to file as a Qualifying Widow or Widower. In fact, the full name of this filing status is actually "Qualifying Widow(er) with a Dependent Child".

What Are the Tax Benefits of Qualifying Widow or Widower Filing Status?

If you file as Qualifying Widow (or Widower) with Dependent Child, you will get the same tax benefits that you would get if you filed as Married Filing Jointly. The Qualifying Widow (or Widower) filing status entitles you to use the Married Filing Jointly tax rates and the highest standard deduction amount (if you do not itemize deductions).

What Filing Status Do I Use after the Death of a Spouse?

If your spouse died during the tax year, you can still use Married Filing Jointly as your filing status for that year (as long as you otherwise qualify). For two years after that, you may be eligible for the Qualifying Widow (or Widower) with Dependent Child filing status.

If you have a dependent child, you have not remarried, and you meet certain other requirements (see below), you can file as Qualifying Widow (Widower) with Dependent Child for two years after the year of your spouse's death.

For example, if your spouse died in 2011, and you have kept up a home for a dependent child, you may be able to use the Qualifying Widow (Widower) filing status on your 2012 and 2013 tax returns.

Can I File as Qualifying Widow (or Qualifying Widower)?

For the two years after the year of your spouse's death, you can use the Qualifying Widow(er) filing status if all 5 of the following statements are true:

  1. For the year in which your spouse died, you filed (or could have filed) a joint return with your spouse.
  2. You did not remarry (during the two years after the year of your spouse's death). For example, your spouse died in 2010 and you do not remarry before January 1, 2013.
  3. You have a child or stepchild (not a foster child) whom you are able claim as a dependent.
  4. The child lived with you in your home all year, except for temporary absences. There are exceptions for birth, death, or kidnapping (see below).
  5. You paid more than half the total cost of keeping up the home in which you and the child lived for the year. The total cost of keeping up a home includes food expenses, rent, mortgage interest, home insurance, real estate taxes, utilities, repairs, maintenance, and other household expenses.

When CAN'T I File as Qualifying Widow or Widower?

If you remarried during the year, you cannot file as Qualifying Widow or Widower.

Neither can you file as Qualifying Widow or Widower if you do not have a dependent child for whom you kept up a home.

What Filing Status Do I Use AFTER Qualifying Widow or Widower?

You can only file as a Qualifying Widow or Widower for the two years after the year in which your spouse died. For example: If your spouse died in 2009, you may only qualify as a Qualifying Widow or Widower for 2010 and 2011 (as long as you meet the other requirements).

After the two-year period has ended, you may no longer file as Qualifying Widow or Widower. If you remarry at this point, you can then file as Married Filing Jointly or as Married Filing Separately.

If you do not remarry in the third year after your spouse's death, you are considered single. You will need to use the Single filing status unless you qualify to file as Head of Household.

Qualifying Widow or Widower Examples and Special Cases:

Example of a Qualifying Widow with Dependent Child

Mary's husband died in early 2008 and she remarried in 2010. During 2008 and 2009 she kept up a home for herself and her 2-year old daughter. For 2008, Mary can file as Married Filing Jointly with her deceased husband. For 2009, she can file as Qualifying Widower with a Dependent Child and keep the tax benefits of the Married Filing Jointly status. For 2010, Mary can file as Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately.

If Mary had not remarried in 2010, she could have filed as Qualifying Widower with a Dependent Child.

Example of a Qualifying Widower with Dependent Child

John's wife died in 2009 and he has not remarried. In 2010 and 2011, he kept up a home in which he lived with his 10-year old stepson. For 2009, he can file as Married Filing Jointly. For 2010 and 2011, he can file as Qualifying Widower with a Dependent Child. For 2012, he can file as Head of Household if he qualifies.

If John remarries on December 31, 2010, then he cannot file as Qualifying Widower with a Dependent Child.

If John did not have a dependent child, he could not file as Qualifying Widower with a Dependent Child.

Special Case: Temporary Absences

You are still considered to have lived together with your child in your home if either one of you is away for a temporary absence. This includes temporarily living away from home for school, business, military service, medical treatment, or vacation, with an expectation to return home after the absence. You must keep up the home during the absence.

Special Case: Birth or Death of a Child

You can still file as Qualifying Widow (Widower) if the child who qualifies you was born or died during the year, as long as you paid more than half of the cost of keeping up the home that the child lived in during the entire part of the year they were alive.

Special Case: Kidnapped Child

If your dependent child was kidnapped, you can still file as Qualifying Widow(er) if all 3 of the following statements are true:

  1. The child is presumed by law enforcement to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a family member (yours or the child's).
  2. In the year that the kidnapping took place, the child lived with you for more than half of the part of the year before they were kidnapped.
  3. You would have been able to file as Qualifying Widow(er) if the child had not been kidnapped.

How Do I File or efile as Qualifying Widow (Widower) with Dependent Child?

You can claim the Qualifying Widow (Widower) filing status when you prepare your tax return on Form 1040A efile it or Form 1040 efile it (Learn which Form 1040 to file here). It is easy to file as a Qualifying Widow (Widower) on efile.com. One of the first things you do when you start preparing your tax return is to choose your filing status. The software will apply the correct tax rates and standard deduction amount.

Unfortunately, the Qualifying Widow (Widower) filing status cannot be claimed on a Form 1040EZ, so if you file as Qualifying Widow (Widower), you will not qualify to use the Free Federal Edition. But our prices for preparing a 1040A or a 1040 are the lowest around (and the accuracy, ease-of-use, and peace-of-mind are worth it)! Compare our tax return preparation prices.

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