What is a Qualifying Widow or Widower?

A qualifying widow or widower is a person who can still file as married filing jointly for tax purposes.

How Does a Qualifying Widow or Widower Work?

Let's say John and Jane Doe have been married for 40 years. John is diagnosed with terminal cancer and dies a year later. When John dies, Jane legally ceases to be married and from a tax perspective becomes a single taxpayer. However, the IRS allows her to apply the tax rates as if she were married filing jointly for the next two tax years because she is a qualifying widow. However, Jane cannot continue to claim an exemption for John.

Jane also has to be a mother supporting a dependent child in her home in order to qualify. If she remarries before the two-year period ends, she loses her status as a qualifying widow.

Why Does a Qualifying Widow or Widower Matter?

Persons who experience the loss of a spouse can still claim the same standard deduction as a married couple filing jointly, which often reduces tax liability and gives the taxpayer time to manage the financial effects of losing a spouse. Note that a qualifying widow or widower cannot use IRS Form 1040EZ.

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Paul Tracy
Paul Tracy

Paul has been a respected figure in the financial markets for more than two decades. Prior to starting InvestingAnswers, Paul founded and managed one of the most influential investment research firms in America, with more than 3 million monthly readers.

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