My husband died when my children were 6 months and 2 years
old. As a result, I receive a monthly check for each of them from Social Security
and will continue to do so until they turn 18 or, in their case, graduate from
high school. Am I required to file a tax return on their behalf? My understanding
is that I do not, because this is not earned income on their part but a death
Social Security survivors benefits provide benefits to children
of deceased workers as well as their spouses caring for the children. The SSA
Web site explains
1. The loss of the family wage earner
can be devastating, both emotionally and financially. Social Security helps by
providing income for the families of workers who die. In fact, 98 of every 100
children could get benefits if a working parent dies. And Social Security pays
more benefits to children than any other federal program.
2. The value of the survivors insurance you have under Social Security is probably
more than the value of your individual life insurance.
Generally, if a parent dies before a child reaches age 18, the child can get a
monthly benefit. The benefit is usually paid to the surviving parent of the child,
but the income really belongs to the child. The Form 1099-SSA issued by Social
Security will report the benefits in the child's name and Social Security number.
The surviving parent would not include the child's benefit in his or her individual
It is a parent's responsibility to make sure
his or her minor children comply with the tax law and file any necessary tax returns
and pay the tax thereon. Social Security benefits, whether survivors benefits
or regular retirement income, are taxable only if they exceed a threshold when
combined with other income of the individual.
To find out
whether any of the child's benefits may be taxable, compare the base amount for
their filing status (single) with the total of:
- One-half of their benefits.
- Plus all their other income, including
The base amount for a single
taxpayer is $25,000. If the child's only income is the Social Security survivors
benefits, he or she would not owe any tax or be required to file a tax return.