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Qualifying Widow/Widower


Qualifying Widow/Widower is a tax-filing status available to individuals who have lost their spouse and are responsible for dependent children. This status enables one to receive similar tax benefits as married couples filing jointly, such as broader tax brackets and higher standard deductions. To qualify for this status, the individual must not remarry and must meet specific criteria for at least two years following the spouse’s death.


The phonetics for the keyword “Qualifying Widow/Widower” would be:Kwə-ˈlī-fĭng ˈwi-dō/wi-ˈdoʊ-ər

Key Takeaways

  1. Qualifying Widow/Widower is a special tax filing status available to surviving spouses for 2 years following the year of their spouse’s death. It allows them to use the same tax rate and standard deduction as married taxpayers filing jointly.
  2. To be eligible as a qualifying widow/widower, the taxpayer must have been entitled to file a joint return with their deceased spouse in the year of the spouse’s death, must not have remarried before the end of the current tax year, and must have a dependent child that lived with them for over half of the year.
  3. After the 2-year period, the taxpayer cannot file as a qualifying widow/widower; however, they may be eligible to file under the Head of Household status if they meet the qualifications, which typically involves lower tax rates compared to Single filing status.


The business/finance term “Qualifying Widow/Widower” holds importance because it relates to an individual’s tax filing status, which has implications on their taxable income, deductions, and overall tax liability. Following the death of a spouse, being classified as a qualifying widow/widower allows the surviving spouse to enjoy the same tax benefits as those who file as Married Filing Jointly, such as higher standard deductions and potentially lower tax rates, for up to two years. This special status aims to provide financial relief and support to those who are dealing with the loss of a partner and may be facing additional financial responsibilities, such as raising children or managing the estate of the deceased.


The purpose of the Qualifying Widow/Widower tax filing status is to offer financial relief and support to a recently bereaved spouse in a difficult period of their life. By allowing a widowed individual to continue filing taxes jointly with their deceased spouse for a specific duration, this tax provision is aimed at reducing the financial burden on the surviving spouse. This is particularly helpful when the deceased spouse was the primary earner in the household, as it can ease the transition and may allow the remaining spouse to continue receiving some benefits that are associated with the marriage.

Beyond the immediate tax relief, the Qualifying Widow/Widower status serves a broader purpose in reinforcing the continuity of a household after the loss of one’s partner. Individuals who qualify for this status benefit from the same standard deduction and tax brackets as those who are married filing jointly, thus providing a measure of stability and predictability to the grieving individual. By maintaining similar tax benefits and allowing the bereaved spouse to devote more time and energy to family, emotional recovery, and future financial planning, the Qualifying Widow/Widower tax filing status ultimately promotes stability during a vulnerable period of emotional distress and change.


The business and finance term “Qualifying Widow/Widower” refers to a specific tax filing status in the United States, which provides a higher standard deduction and joint tax return rates for individuals who have lost their spouse and meet certain criteria. Here are three real-world examples related to the Qualifying Widow/Widower status:

1. Jane’s scenario: Jane lost her spouse in 2020 and has two dependent children. In 2021, she continues to maintain a household for her children and receives Social Security benefits for them. Jane can file as a Qualifying Widow for the tax years 2021 and 2022, which allows her to benefit from joint tax return rates and a higher standard deduction than if she were to file as a single taxpayer or head of household. This will help reduce her overall tax liability.

2. Michael’s situation: Michael’s spouse passed away in 2019. They were married and had a dependent child together. Michael maintained the household for himself and the child in 2020, providing more than half of their financial support. He could file his 2020 tax return as a Qualifying Widower, benefiting from the joint tax rates and higher standard deduction. However, by 2021, his child is no longer considered a dependent. Now, Michael has to file as a single taxpayer or head of household—losing the benefits of the Qualifying Widow/Widower status.

3. Susan’s case: Susan’s spouse died in 2018, leaving her with three minor children. While she was initially able to claim the Qualifying Widow status in 2019 and 2020, by 2021, her eldest child became financially independent, and she no longer provided more than half of the household expenses for the remaining two children. Unfortunately, in 2021, Susan might not qualify for the Qualifying Widow/Widower status since the two remaining dependents did not live with her for the entire year (excluding temporary absences) and she did not pay the majority of their household expenses. Susan will need to file as a single taxpayer or as head of household based on her specific situation.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Qualifying Widow/Widower?

A Qualifying Widow/Widower is a specific tax-filing status that allows a widow or widower to benefit from the same tax rates as a married couple filing jointly, provided they meet certain criteria. This status is typically used by individuals who have lost a spouse and have a dependent child.

What are the criteria for an individual to qualify as a Qualifying Widow/Widower?

In order to qualify for this tax-filing status, the individual must meet the following requirements:1. Their spouse has died in either of the two preceding tax years.2. They have remained unmarried during the current tax year.3. They have a child, stepchild, or adopted child who is a dependent.4. The individual paid more than half of the costs of maintaining a home for the entire tax year.5. The dependent child lived in the home with the taxpayer for the entire tax year, except for temporary absences due to illness, education, or other special circumstances.

What are the benefits of filing taxes as a Qualifying Widow/Widower?

The main benefit of filing as a Qualifying Widow/Widower is that you can use the married-filing-jointly tax rates, which are typically more favorable than the tax rates for single filers. This can result in lower taxable income and a reduced tax liability.

How many years can I file as a Qualifying Widow/Widower?

You can file as a Qualifying Widow/Widower for a maximum of two years following the death of your spouse. After that, if you remain unmarried, you will need to change your filing status to either single or head of household, depending on your situation.

Can a Qualifying Widow/Widower claim any other tax benefits or deductions?

Yes, a Qualifying Widow/Widower can claim the same deductions and tax credits as a married couple filing jointly. This includes claiming the standard deduction, itemizing deductions (if applicable), and claiming tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and more, if eligible.

How do I file my taxes as a Qualifying Widow/Widower?

When preparing your tax return, simply select the Qualifying Widow/Widower filing status on your tax return form. Be sure to provide any necessary information and documentation to support your tax status and deductions. If you are unsure about your eligibility or how to fill out your tax return, it is best to consult with a tax professional for guidance.

Related Finance Terms

  • Tax Filing Status
  • Dependent Child
  • Joint Tax Return
  • Surviving Spouse
  • Two-Year Duration

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