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Are all applicable filing statuses are always explicitly spelled out in every IRS tax form, or are certain shorthands/assumptions made?

For example, the 2019 Form 8995 says it may be used to calculate a deduction, if (among other conditions):

[…] Your 2019 taxable income before your QBI deduction is less than or equal to $160,700 ($160,725 if married filing separately or a married nonresident alien; $321,400 if married filing jointly) […]

What income limit would apply if one's filing status were "Qualifying Widower"?

The simple interpretation here is that the limit by default is $160,700 unless the filing status is one of the two "married filing…" exceptions. That is, taking these instructions literally a "qualifying widower" [or "head of household"] is subject to the $160,700 phase-out threshold and the instructions for Form 8995-A only strengthen this (emphasis mine):

[…] if your taxable income (before the QBI deduction) exceeds the threshold ($160,725 if married filing separately or a married nonresident alien; $321,400 if married filing jointly; $160,700 for all others) […]

But my understanding is that "Qualifying Widower" is generally equivalent to "Married filing jointly" in most other contexts. The filing status instructions themselves say (emphasis again mine):

You can check the “Qualifying widow(er)” box at the top of Form 1040 or 1040-SR and use joint return tax rates for 2019 if all of the following apply. […]

So is this an overarching rule that says "Qualifying Widower" is treated as "Married filing jointly" for the rest of the return, or does each form/worksheet/line stand alone with its particular instructions re. filing status?

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This is a great question.

My understanding is that unless otherwise specified in specific cases in the instructions, if you are filing as Qualified Widow(er), you use all the same numbers as Married Filing Jointly. Tax rates, deduction amounts and limits, and thresholds are all supposed to be the same between Married Filing Jointly and Qualifying Widow(er).

For the Qualified Business Income deduction specifically, I am seeing conflicting information on the internet:

lumsdencpa.com published a QBI deduction flowchart (dated 2018) which claims that the higher deduction threshold amount is for MFJ status only, and the lower threshold is for Single, MFS, HOH, and Qualified Widow(er).

However, TurboTax has a Q&A titled “Am I entitled to the QBI deduction if I am self-employed as CPA?” (dated 2019) which claims that the higher limit is used for both MFJ and QW.

In my unprofessional opinion, I think that the thresholds should be the same for MFJ and QW. However, I have also learned that the tax rules don’t always follow what I would think makes the most sense.

The best answer I can give is this: ask your accountant. At this level of business income, you really should be using an accountant that can answer questions like this.

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  • Gratefully the filing status does not apply to me personally (nor the income level, less gratefully I suppose ;-) but I maintain a casual but somewhat generic spreadsheet to help with tax preparation and I end up noticing weird logic things like this. – natevw Mar 9 '20 at 17:03
  • I'm accepting this as an excellent answer for my purposes, though if someone else is able to provide a more authoritative answer that would help others with this question I'd be happy to reconsider. – natevw Mar 9 '20 at 17:04

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