widow's filing status options
My husband died in 2003 and I filed jointly for
2003. For 2004, I will file as a qualifying widow. What I need to
know is, do I have to fill out a new W-4 and file as "single"
starting in 2005? I don't feel that being a widow is "single,"
but I need to know because I want to do the right thing. It also
concerns me because that will be like a cut in pay for me. -- Sandra
You don't often hear about qualifying widow or widower status as
a filing option because it applies only in limited circumstances.
A qualifying widow is eligible to use the tax
rates that apply to a married couple as opposed to single or
head of household rates. Since the married rates are lower than
the two other categories, this would be a benefit for a family where
there's only one breadwinner.
If your spouse passes away during the year, you're
considered married for the entire year and you can use the tax rates
applicable to married couples and claim an exemption for your deceased
spouse. If your spouse died before signing the return, the executor
or administrator must sign the return for your spouse. If neither
you nor anyone else has yet been appointed as executor or administrator,
you can sign the return for your spouse and print "Filing as
surviving spouse" in the area where you sign the return.
You can file as a qualifying widow (or widower) for
up to two tax years following the year of your spouse's death if
you can claim a child as a dependent and you pay for more than half
the cost of maintaining a home for you and the child or children.
Hence, you would only file as a qualifying widow in 2004 and 2005
if you have a dependent child. If so, you could continue to claim
married on your Form W-4. Otherwise, you should change your Form
W-4 to single. If you still have a dependent child after the
two-year period, then you would switch to head of household filing