General Question

MrKarst's avatar

Do I need to file a tax return for my deceased father?

Asked by MrKarst (95points) March 19th, 2010

I have gotten conflicting answers and advice from people on this subject. Let me start by saying that I am the executor of my Dad’s estate, which was not very large. Therefore, any tax implication will be minor. In other words, he would not be getting much in the way of a refund nor would he owe much. Since I have not done the paperwork, I am not sure how it will come out, but it will be close to breaking even.

My real question is: What are the implications to his estate (and me, as the executor) of not filing a federal return? If taxes are owed and not paid, I assume he could be audited just like anyone else. Would the IRS be willing and able to track down his heirs? If so, what would the statute of limitations be on that?

I already know that the law says a tax return must be filed, so I am not wondering about the legality of not filing. I am just trying to determine the possible implications of not filing. Thanks in advance!

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13 Answers

thriftymaid's avatar

Probably. Talk to an estate attorney.

jaytkay's avatar

Is it complicated? Maybe it’s easiest to file and not fret. I assume not, or you probably wouldn’t be asking. But maybe it’s worth the peace of mind.

faye's avatar

My mother died end of Feb 2007. I filed her taxes for 2006 but not for 2007. This is Canada and I was supposed to file a final something or ruther but I haven’t and nothing’s happened yet. I think we are small potaotes.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I took care of my father’s return. It was no big deal and helped give closure. One less thing to worry about.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I would talk to a tax attorney. The IRS is not something you want to screw around with.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

I would file it myself quickly as best I could fill it out in minutes. That way at least it was filed. If the IRS comes back to you about some small issue just pay the difference.

KhiaKarma's avatar

I would file. Any debts that the estate incurs the inheritors have to pay….so you could end up with a mess. It will be under the microscope too, since you will have to probate the will and such.

So sorry for your loss. It’s a pain to have to deal with all the “buisness” of things when you’re grieving, but necessary.

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t get it. You clearly state I already know that the law says a tax return must be filed, so I am not wondering about the legality of not filing. If the law says you must file, then it is illegal not to file. Where is there room to question?

jaytkay's avatar

For those saying, “tax attorney”.

Wouldn’t HR Block or the CPA down the block be sufficient?

semblance's avatar

I am an attorney. In addition to a regular law degree I have a Master of Laws in Taxation. To be clear, do not take this as creating an attorney-client relationship. I will state my opinion as to general tax principles which apply in the United States.

The executor of the estate is legally responsible for filing the return and, assuming that there are assets in the estate, paying any taxes due. This applies for any period for which no return has been filed and there is a filing obligation. For example, someone dies March 19, 2010, not having filed her or his 2009 income tax return. In that event the executor must file the 2009 return and, if there was sufficient taxable income to meet the filing threshold in 2010, a return for that year also.

If the executor does not file, the executor gets audited and can be held personally liable for failure to file and failure to pay penalties. These penalties may not be paid from estate assets if other beneficiaries object to that use of estate funds. This is so because the executor would be guilty of breach of fiduciary duty.

If the executor intentionally fails to file a return when one legally should be filed, that becomes tax fraud, for which there is no civil statute of limitations. It also may be tax evasion, which is a criminal offense.

In summary, not filing is unbearably stupid. Really, really, really, really DUMB.

cak's avatar

@semblance excellent answer…the last line summed it up!

MrKarst's avatar

Thanks to everyone for the feedback. Even though the wording in a few responses was, in my opinion, a tad strong and judgmental based on how I asked the question, it seems advisable that I take the time to file a return. I asked the question because I have (thankfully) not had to deal with this situation until now.

I especially appreciate the condolences offered by @KhiaKarma. Having to go through his files again hasn’t been enjoyable but as @worriedguy points out, it may help give some closure.

Thanks again.

Geordie's avatar

I can’t believe how insensitive some people can be! Lucky for them, they probably haven’t walked in your shoes.

I just want to say I am sorry for your loss. I too lost a parent and realize how painful it is to go through documents, etc. Having said that, I would get help from a place like H&R Block and get it done. After that, sit back, relax, and do something nice for yourself. I’m sure your father would want that. Best of luck to you!

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