Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How is a the Income of a Decedent’s Estate Taxed?

Many people know that the estate tax applies only to estates of several million dollars, but that doesn’t mean that an estate has no tax obligations. An estate must file an income tax return and, depending on the timing of distributions, pay income tax. Typical items of taxable income include interest, dividends, and capital gains. An estate reports income and deductions similarly to a complex trust on IRS Form 1041. However, there are some important differences, such as choice of fiscal year, quarterly estimated tax payments, and rental real estate losses. Often a person dies with assets held in a revocable trust and some or all of the trust becomes irrevocable upon death. Typically this results in the creation at death of two taxable entities, the decedent’s estate and the irrevocable trust. If proper procedures are followed, income tax law allows these two entities to be combined for income tax return purposes. This usually results in more favorable tax rules, and, since only one income tax return is required per year, saves on professional tax preparation fees.