Deceased Taxpayer: Who Signs the Tax Return?

Posted by Lee Reams Sr. on

If a taxpayer died before filing a return, the taxpayer's spouse or personal representative can file and sign a return for the taxpayer.  In all such cases enter “Deceased,” the deceased taxpayer's name, and the date of death across the top of the return (2016 1040 instructions, Pg. 92). Generally, your software will include a provision for this by entering the date of death.

Surviving Spouse – Where the surviving spouse is filing a joint return with the deceased spouse in the year of death or any year preceding the year of death in which they qualified to file a joint return, the surviving spouse may sign on behalf of the deceased spouse. In that case, in the signature block include “filing as surviving spouse” (2016 Pub 17, Pg. 21). If someone else is the personal representative, he or she also must sign the return (2016 1040 instructions, Pg. 93)

If there is a refund on the return, the surviving spouse is not required to file Form 1310, Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer.   

However, where the IRS issues a refund check in the joint names of the deceased and surviving spouses, the surviving spouse should then complete Form 1310, checking box A, and return the check to the IRS to have a new check issued in only the survivor’s name.    

Personal Representative – Other than the taxpayer's spouse discussed earlier, a personal representative can file and sign a return for the deceased taxpayer. A personal representative can be an executor, administrator, or anyone who is in charge of the deceased taxpayer's property (2016 1040 Instructions Pg. 92).

  • Executor or Administrator – Where the return is filed and signed by a court appointed or certified personal representative, the return is signed by the personal representative followed by “Personal Representative” after the signature.  If there is a refund due on an original return, Form 1310 is not required, but a copy of the court certificate must be attached to the return (unless previously filed). If filing an amended return (Form 1040X) or a claim for refund (Form 843), complete Form 1310, checking box B, and attach it to the return.
  • Other Than Executor or Administrator – Sign the return followed by “personal representative” after the signature. If there is a refund due, also complete a Form 1310, checking Box C and completing Part II of the Form 1310. Part II includes a certification that the refund “will be paid out in accordance with the laws of the decedent’s resident state,” meaning if the estate has any claims against it the refund must be used to pay those.