Re: Do I must file my tax return in 2018
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Returning Member

Do I must file my tax return in 2018


Both me and my wife are green card holders (Permanent resident of U.S), we all over 65 years old and have already collected Social Security benefit. Unfortunately, my wife passed away in the March of 2018. Prior to her death, the Total Gross Income of my family includes $7500/Year from SSA retirement benefit plus my wife use to collect $40/Month pension from her work. However, the pension money is gone after she passed away (because she doesn’t appoint any beneficiary). We Do Not have any dependents and NO tax payers claim us as dependents. Except Social Security Benefit & pension money, we DO NOT have any other assets (house, stock, options....) and source of income (dividend, IRA distribution...).

Base on the information I am provided, will I (as a survivor spouse) HAVE TO file the tax return for Year 2018 ? Please help, any input will be appreciated.

10 Replies
Level 3

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

You can always file a return, even if you don't owe any money.  If you don't file, and based on 1099 information reporting and other sources, IRS determines you may owe some tax, they will create a substitute return and open an assessment for that amount.  If you are entitled to a tax refund or tax credits, you also can't claim these unless you file.  I'd at least prepare a draft return to see if it's worth filing.

Returning Member

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

Thanks for your input, cparke3. I am not in U.S right now, and I do not have 1099 paper on hand to help preparing this return. If I HAVE TO file then I will need fly back to the U.S. I do not really care the Tax refund as long as I do not owe any money. I would like to know base on the information I provided above do I MUST file tax return for 2018 ?

Thanks again
Level 3

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

1099's and W-2's, etc. are not typically mailed until the end of January. You can also often access them electronically from the bank or other business in question.

You probably qualify for free file if you're thinking you may not need to file. It would be wise to draft a return using one of these programs, just to make sure you do not owe any tax. To set up an account for 2018 after filing season ends will likely cost money.

As long as you're sure you do not owe any tax or you are due a refund, you have 3 years to file the return and claim the refund and any credits (E-file, however, shuts down in November). If you find you owe money, you can also make an estimated or extension tax payment now (i.e. before April 15) to avoid penalties from applying when you later file.

Hope that helps!
Level 6

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

     I am sorry to learn of your loss.  The Social Security Administration should have been informed of your wife's passing, and her checks should have stopped.  If she received an excess check in April, then that should be repaid.  Check with the Social Security office to be sure that all is OK with her account.

    Because you say that your are both "green card holders", your status would that of a RESIDENT Alien for U.S tax purposes.  Because your wife passed in 2018, then you would file with status of Married Filing Jointly (MFJ)--if you need to file.  You would include all of your 2018 income and as well as your wife's income for the year. The gross income threshold for filing for a 2018 MFJ tax return (both over age 65), is $25,300 based on income which is not exempt from tax.  So with the income that you indicate (and assuming that you stated all of your combined income), then you are well below the filing requirement.  It does not appear that you have a requirement to file. However, you can file if you want to file. Because I don't know how well the IRS connects with Social Security, some of my friends tell me that filing the return, and marking your spouse as deceased, might be a good practice to help stop future fraud attempts.   You would not owe any tax money for 2018 with the income that you stated.

Returning Member

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

Thanks for your help, AJ & Cparke3. I still have few questions regard filing return.

1)Base on what you (AJ) just said, it seems to me the Gross Income NOT family member death will determine whether I must file my tax return ? For example, as year 2018, the Gross Income threshold for a married couple (no kids) is $25300, as long as my family (me & my deceased wife) Total Gross Income (including: earned interest, SSA benefit, Capital Gain....) is below stated amount, then I will NOT require to file tax return ?

2)As you (AJ) just said, I can remain use “Married Joint Filing” status to file my current tax return, I just wonder if I remain UNMARRIED & do not live with my kids, how many YEARS can I claim my status as “Married Joint Filing” ? If somehow I am not be able to claim myself as “Married Joint Filing” status in the future, can I use “single” filing status instead ?

3)Cparke3, If I am sure I do not owe any tax but due a refund, I will have 3 years to file the return and claim the refund & credit, let’s say if I file my tax return in year 2019, how can I claim refund for 2018 ? I mean will tax software (Ex: Turbo Tax, H&R Block....) provide such options ?

Thanks for all your inputs.
Level 3

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

The normal filing due date for the tax year 2018 return is April 15, 2019. The extended filing date is October 15, 2019. Paper returns need to be mailed after mid-November, 2019 when tax year 2018 e-filing shuts down. The final filing date is April 15, 2022. Tax software like TurboTax will operate within these deadlines. You've never filed a return before and don't know this?

There are too many possible situations for anyone to say with certainty that you must file or should file. For example, kiddie tax, household employee tax, retirement account withdrawal taxes, and things like child tax credit might apply to you based on other factors you forgot to mention because you didn't realize they were relevant. You're asking the public community to prepare an informal, draft return for you, for free in a public forum, based on a brief sketch you've provided. Not only is there a huge liability for someone to do that, plus privacy issues, there's a high possibility of inaccuracy. The best thing for you to do is go through the tax software interview process and find out the result!
Level 6

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

1) Yes.  It is the income limit that can make the filing mandatory.  However, in your case, I would still recommend that you file your return and mark your wife as deceased and enter her date of death into the IRS data base.  If her SSN is not already blocked, that action should guarantee that nobody else can use her number in the future.

2) You only get the MFJ option for the tax year in which the death occurs.  The following year, without any dependent child, you would file as SINGLE.

3) I am confused by talk of "refund" since you did not mention having income that would have generated withholdings or situations which would indicated any tax credit.   Lack of adequate inputs often leads to incorrect outputs.  But if someone would have a refund, from a W-2 for example, then they should file to get their refund.  And don't wait. File for each year, and file on time. Forget about this 3-year stuff.  Just because you might be able to get away with doing that does not mean that you should do that.  April 15, 2019 is the due date to file your return for tax-year 2018.

Returning Member

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

Thanks for your help again, AJ & Cparke3.

AJ, you just pointed out “Gross Income threshold” will determine whether I MUST file return or not, and my filing status will change to “Single” in the following year (2019), this mean I will have to check “Single Filing” Gross Income threshold to determine whether I must file or not in 2019 right ?

More importantly, I appreciate your suggestion which mark her death as the best solution. But for whatever reason if I skip filing 2018 return but deciding to file for 2019, will I have to use“Single Filing” status right ?

Best Regards,
Level 3

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

It is also possible you may use the "Head of Household" or "Widow/Widower" filing status in later years rather than Single.  There are certain requirements (like qualifying dependent) which must be met for you to qualify to use these statuses, however.


What you're doing here is really dangerous for you, because as the above demonstrated, tax rules can get complicated and many circumstances you didn't realize are relevant can change your tax benefits or liability significantly.  Another example is the "kids who do not live with you", but if you're filing jointly with your spouse and they lived with them, then they do live with you!  And of course there is the health insurance individual mandate.  And then what about foreign income?


Also, have you or your spouse filed in previous years?  The final deadline to file or amend for tax year 2015 is coming up April 15, 2019.  Amending means things such as claiming a tax credit that was omitted on the original return or changing the filing status from filing separately to filing jointly, which can only be done until that final date. 


I understand that you're still dealing with the death and all, and probably would rather just skip the taxes this year if at all possible (or rather, defer doing them until next year).  However, this community is not the correct place to get advice on what you should do or are required to do, rather it is a place to ask general questions on the tax law and procedures and get opinions on what might be appropriate.  I've said earlier, and I'll say again, you should get professional advice or at least go through the tax software interview process to get the best picture possible about what filing taxes would mean for you and if you owe anything.  If you don't understand something in there, then ask a specific question about that topic, not a generalized question like "AGI is all that matters to determine if I need to file" which is very open-ended. 


Good luck!

Level 6

Do I must file my tax return in 2018

Unless you change your family situation, you will file as "Single" next year and for years moving forward.  Other filing status will not apply to you.  However, you should revisit this conclusion if your family situation changes such that you pick up a future dependent who can be classified as a qualifying child or a qualifying relative.  Here is an IRS link that can assist you for filing status:


Yes, the income limit changes when Single.  This year, the Single, over age 65, income number for filing is $13,600.  This is basically just the Standard Deduction number.  At that income point, your Social Security income will not be taxable and will thus not count toward the income number.  Here is the link to the IRS that can provide additional assistance:


Here is a more complete treatment of filing requirements.  However, your description of your situation does not appear to include these cases. 

You must file a return if any of the conditions below apply for 2018.
1. You owe any special taxes, including any of the following.
   a. Alternative minimum tax.
   b. Additional tax on a qualified plan, including an individual retirement arrangement (IRA),
or other tax-favored account. But if you are filing a return only because you owe this tax, you
can file Form 5329 by itself.
   c. Household employment taxes. But if you are filing a return only because you owe this tax,
you can file Schedule H by itself.
   d. Social security and Medicare tax on tips you did not report to your employer or on wages
you received from an employer who did not withhold these taxes.
   e. Recapture of first-time homebuyer credit. See the instructions for Schedule 4 line 60b.
   f. Write-in taxes, including uncollected social security and Medicare or RRTA tax on tips
you reported to your employer or on group-term life insurance and additional taxes on health
savings accounts. See the instructions for Schedule 4, line 62.
   g. Recapture taxes. See the instructions for Form 1040 line 11 and Schedule 4 line 62.
2. You (or your spouse, if filing jointly) received HSA, Archer MSA or Medicare Advantage
MSA distributions.
3. You had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400.
4. You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization
that is exempt from employer social security and Medicare taxes.
5. Advance payments of the premium tax credit were made for you, your spouse, or a dependent
who enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace. You or whoever enrolled you should have
received Form(s) 1095-A showing the amount of the advance payments.


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