There is a little leeway for those who experienced a significant loss last year. If you were widowed, you can still file married jointly for 2016 and get the same tax breaks that married couples do. (This is the one exception to the rule that your marriage status at the end of the year dictates your filing status, Charney said.)
When a spouse passes away, any inheritance or property worth less than $5,450,000 will also get passed to a surviving spouse without any estate tax penalty. And if a refund is expected, you can still claim it.
In that case, you should complete and file a Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer (Form 1310) — although the IRS says it's not mandatory for a surviving spouse filing a joint return, it's a good idea to file the form anyway to avoid possible delays, Greene-Lewis said.
Most other changes, including your filing status and Social Security benefits, will occur after the year of death. And for the two years that follow, you can file as a qualifying widower (as long as you have a dependent), which means the tax rates will still be lower than filing single.
More tax season stories:
How to prepare for filing season
Don't make these mistakes on your return
Grab these tax credits if you live overseas