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Who Must File

Decedent's Estate

The fiduciary (or one of the joint fiduciaries) must file Form 1041 for a domestic estate that has:

  1. Gross income for the tax year of $600 or more, or
  2. A beneficiary who is a nonresident alien.

 

An estate is a domestic estate if it is not a foreign estate. A foreign estate is one the income of which, from sources outside the United States that is not effectively connected with the conduct of a U.S. trade or business, is not includible in gross income. If you are the fiduciary of a foreign estate, file Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return, instead of Form 1041.

Trust

The fiduciary (or one of the joint fiduciaries) must file Form 1041 for a domestic trust taxable under section 641 that has:

  1. Any taxable income for the tax year,
  2. Gross income of $600 or more (regardless of taxable income), or
  3. A beneficiary who is a nonresident alien.

 

Two or more trusts are treated as one trust if such trusts have substantially the same grantor(s) and substantially the same primary beneficiary(ies) and a principal purpose of such trusts is avoidance of tax. This provision applies only to that portion of the trust that is attributable to contributions to corpus made after March 1, 1984.

A trust is a domestic trust if:

  • A U.S. court is able to exercise primary supervision over the administration of the trust (court test), and
  • One or more U.S. persons have the authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust (control test).

 

See Regulations section 301.7701-7 for more information on the court and control tests.

Also treated as a domestic trust is a trust (other than a trust treated as wholly owned by the grantor) that:

  • Was in existence on August 20, 1996,
  • Was treated as a domestic trust on August 19, 1996, and
  • Elected to continue to be treated as a domestic trust.

 

A trust that is not a domestic trust is treated as a foreign trust. If you are the trustee of a foreign trust, file Form 1040NR instead of Form 1041. Also, a foreign trust with a U.S. owner generally must file Form 3520-A, Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner.

If a domestic trust becomes a foreign trust, it is treated under section 684 as having transferred all of its assets to a foreign trust, except to the extent a grantor or another person is treated as the owner of the trust when the trust becomes a foreign trust.

Special Rule for Certain Revocable Trusts

Section 645 provides that if both the executor (if any) of an estate (the related estate) and the trustee of a qualified revocable trust (QRT) elect the treatment in section 645, the trust shall be treated and taxed as part of the related estate during the election period. This election may be made by a QRT even if no executor is appointed for the related estate.

In general, Form 8855, Election To Treat a Qualified Revocable Trust as Part of an Estate, must be filed by the due date for Form 1041 for the first tax year of the related estate. This applies even if the combined related estate and electing trust do not have sufficient income to be required to file Form 1041. However, if the estate is granted an extension of time to file Form 1041 for its first tax year, the due date for Form 8855 is the extended due date.

Once made, the election is irrevocable.

Qualified revocable trusts.   In general, a QRT is any trust (or part of a trust) that, on the day the decedent died, was treated as owned by the decedent because the decedent held the power to revoke the trust as described in section 676. An electing trust is a QRT for which a section 645 election has been made.
 
Election period.   The election period is the period of time during which an electing trust is treated as part of its related estate.

The election period begins on the date of the decedent's death and terminates on the earlier of:

  • The day on which the electing trust and related estate, if any, distribute all of their assets, or
  • The day before the applicable date.
To determine the applicable date, first determine whether a Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, is required to be filed as a result of the decedent's death. If no Form 706 is required to be filed, the applicable date is 2 years after the date of the decedent's death. If Form 706 is required, the applicable date is the later of 2 years after the date of the decedent's death or 6 months after the final determination of liability for estate tax. For additional information, see Regulations section 1.645-1(f).

Taxpayer identification number.   All QRTs must obtain a new taxpayer identification number (TIN) following the death of the decedent whether or not a section 645 election is made. (Use Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification, to notify payers of the new TIN.)

An electing trust that continues after the termination of the election period does not need to obtain a new TIN following the termination unless:
  • An executor was appointed and agreed to the election after the electing trust made a valid section 645 election, and the electing trust had filed a return as an estate under the trust's TIN, or
  • No executor was appointed and the QRT was the filing trust (as explained below).

A related estate that continues after the termination of the election period does not need to obtain a new TIN.

For more information about TINs, including trusts with multiple owners, see Regulations sections 1.645-1 and 301.6109-1(a).

General procedures for completing Form 1041 during the election period.

If there is an executor.   The following rules apply to filing Form 1041 while the election is in effect.
  • The executor of the related estate is responsible for filing Form 1041 for the estate and all electing trusts. The return is filed under the name and TIN of the related estate. Be sure and check the Decedent's estate box at the top of Form 1041. The executor continues to file Form 1041 during the election period even if the estate distributes all of its assets before the end of the election period.
  • The Form 1041 includes all items of income, deduction, and credit for the estate and all electing trusts.
  • The executor must attach a statement to Form 1041 providing the following information for each electing trust: (a) the name of the electing trust, (b) the TIN of the electing trust, and (c) the name and address of the trustee of the electing trust.
  • The related estate and the electing trust are treated as separate shares for purposes of computing distributable net income and applying distribution provisions. Also, each of those shares can contain two or more separate shares. For more information, see Separate share rule on page 21 and Regulations section 1.645-1(e)(2)(iii).
  • The executor is responsible for insuring that the estate's share of the combined tax obligation is paid.
For additional information, including treatment of transfers between shares and charitable contribution deductions, see Regulations section 1.645-1(e).

If there is no executor.   If no executor has been appointed for the related estate, the trustee of the electing trust files Form 1041 as if it was an estate. File using the TIN that the QRT obtained after the death of the decedent. The trustee can choose a fiscal year as the trust's tax year during the election period. Be sure to check the Decedent's estate box at the top of page 1 during the election period. The electing trust is entitled to a single $600 personal exemption on returns filed for the election period.

If there is more than one electing trust, the trusts must appoint one trustee as the filing trustee. Form 1041 is filed under the name and TIN of the filing trustee's trust. A statement providing the same information regarding the electing trusts (except the filing trust) that is listed under If there is an executor above must be attached to these Forms 1041. All electing trusts must choose the same tax year.

If there is more than one electing trust, the filing trustee is responsible for insuring that the filing trust's share of the combined tax liability is paid.

For additional information on filing requirements when there is no executor, including application of the separate share rule, see Regulations section 1.645-1(e). For information on the requirements when an executor is appointed after an election is made and the executor does not agree to the election, see below.

Responsibilities of the trustee when there is an executor (or there is no executor and the trustee is not the filing trustee).   When there is an executor (or there is no executor and the trustee is not the filing trustee), the trustee of an electing trust is responsible for the following during the election period.

  • To timely provide the executor with all the trust information necessary to allow the executor to file a complete, accurate, and timely Form 1041.
  • To insure that the electing trust's share of the combined tax liability is paid.
The trustee does not file a Form 1041 during the election period (except for a final return if the trust terminates during the election period as explained below).
 

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