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General Instructions

Purpose of Form

The executor of a decedent's estate uses Form 706 to figure the estate tax imposed by Chapter 11 of the Internal Revenue Code. This tax is levied on the entire taxable estate and not just on the share received by a particular beneficiary. Form 706 is also used to figure the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax imposed by Chapter 13 on direct skips (transfers to skip persons of interests in property included in the decedent's gross estate).

Which Estates Must File

For decedents who died in 2016, Form 706 must be filed by the executor of the estate of every U.S. citizen or resident:

a. Whose gross estate, plus adjusted taxable gifts and specific exemption, is more than $5,450,000; or,

b. Whose executor elects to transfer the DSUE amount to the surviving spouse, regardless of the size of the decedent's gross estate. See instructions for Part 6—Portability of Deceased Spousal Unused Exclusion and sections 2010(c)(4) and (c)(5).

To determine whether you must file a return for the estate under test “a” above, add:

  1. The adjusted taxable gifts (as defined in section 2503) made by the decedent after December 31, 1976;

  2. The total specific exemption allowed under section 2521 (as in effect before its repeal by the Tax Reform Act of 1976) for gifts made by the decedent after September 8, 1976; and

  3. The decedent's gross estate valued as of the date of death.

Gross Estate

The gross estate includes all property in which the decedent had an interest (including real property outside the United States). It also includes:

  • Certain transfers made during the decedent's life without an adequate and full consideration in money or money's worth,

  • Annuities,

  • The includible portion of joint estates with right of survivorship (see instructions for Schedule E),

  • The includible portion of tenancies by the entirety (see instructions for Schedule E),

  • Certain life insurance proceeds (even though payable to beneficiaries other than the estate) (see instructions for Schedule D),

  • Property over which the decedent possessed a general power of appointment,

  • Dower or curtesy (or statutory estate) of the surviving spouse, and

  • Community property to the extent of the decedent's interest as defined by applicable law.


Under the special rule of Regulations section 20.2010-2(a)(7)(ii), executors of estates who are not required to file Form 706 under section 6018(a), but who are filing to elect portability of DSUE amount to the surviving spouse, are not required to report the value of certain property eligible for the marital deduction under section 2056 or 2056A or the charitable deduction under section 2055. However, the value of those assets must be estimated and included in the total value of the gross estate. See instructions for Part 5—Recapitulation, lines 10 and 23, for more information.

For more specific information, see the instructions for Schedules A through I.

U.S. Citizens or Residents; Nonresident Noncitizens

File Form 706 for the estates of decedents who were either U.S. citizens or U.S. residents at the time of death. For estate tax purposes, a resident is someone who had a domicile in the United States at the time of death. A person acquires a domicile by living in a place for even a brief period of time, as long as the person had no intention of moving from that place.

Decedents who were neither U.S. citizens nor U.S. residents at the time of death, file Form 706-NA, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, for the estate of nonresident not a citizen of the United States.

Residents of U.S. Possessions

All references to citizens of the United States are subject to the provisions of sections 2208 and 2209, relating to decedents who were U.S. citizens and residents of a U.S. possession on the date of death. If such a decedent became a U.S. citizen only because of his or her connection with a possession, then the decedent is considered a nonresident not a citizen of the United States for estate tax purposes, and you should file Form 706-NA. If such a decedent became a U.S. citizen wholly independently of his or her connection with a possession, then the decedent is considered a U.S. citizen for estate tax purposes, and you should file Form 706.


The term executor includes the executor, personal representative, or administrator of the decedent's estate. If none of these is appointed, qualified, and acting in the United States, every person in actual or constructive possession of any property of the decedent is considered an executor and must file a return.

Executors must provide documentation proving their status. Documentation will vary, but may include documents such as a certified copy of the will or a court order designating the executor(s). A statement by the executor attesting to their status is insufficient.

When To File

You must file Form 706 to report estate and/or GST tax within 9 months after the date of the decedent's death. If you are unable to file Form 706 by the due date, you may receive an extension of time to file. Use Form 4768, Application for Extension of Time To File a Return and/or Pay U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Taxes, to apply for an automatic 6-month extension of time to file.

Portability election.   An executor can only elect to transfer the DSUE amount to the surviving spouse if the Form 706 is filed timely; that is, within 9 months of the decedent's date of death or, if you have received an extension of time to file, before the 6-month extension period ends.


Any estate that is filing an estate tax return only to elect portability and does not file timely may seek relief under Regulations section 301.9100-3 to make the portability election.

Private delivery services.   You can use certain private delivery services designated by the IRS to meet the “timely mailing as timely filing/paying” rule for tax returns and payments. These private delivery services include only the following:
  • Federal Express (FedEx): FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2Day, FedEx International Priority, FedEx International First, FedEx First Overnight, FedEx International First Next Flight Out, and FedEx International Economy.

  • United Parcel Service (UPS): UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, UPS Worldwide Express, and UPS Next Day Air Early AM.

  • DHL Express 9:00, DHL Express 10:30, DHL Express 12:00, DHL Express Worldwide, DHL Express Envelope, DHL Import Express 10:30, DHL Import Express 12:00, and DHL Import Express Worldwide.

  The private delivery service can tell you how to get written proof of the mailing date.

Where To File

File Form 706 at the following address:

Department of the Treasury  
Internal Revenue Service Center 
Cincinnati, OH 45999

If using a private delivery service, send Form 706 to the following address:

201 W. RiverCenter Boulevard 
Covington, Kentucky 41011 
Attn: Submission Processing, Stop 31

Paying the Tax

The estate and GST taxes are due within 9 months of the date of the decedent's death. You may request an extension of time for payment by filing Form 4768. You may also elect under section 6166 to pay in installments or under section 6163 to postpone the part of the tax attributable to a reversionary or remainder interest. These elections are made by checking lines 3 and 4 (respectively) of Part 3—Elections by the Executor, and attaching the required statements.

If the tax paid with the return is different from the balance due as figured on the return, explain the difference in an attached statement. If you have made prior payments to the IRS, attach a statement to Form 706 including these facts.

Paying by check.   Make the check payable to the “United States Treasury.” Please write the decedent's name, social security number (SSN), and “Form 706” on the check to assist us in posting it to the proper account.

No checks of $100 million or more accepted.

The IRS cannot accept a single check (including a cashier's check) for amounts of $100,000,000 ($100 million) or more. If you're sending $100 million or more by check, you'll need to spread the payments over two or more checks, with each check made out for an amount less than $100 million. The $100 million or more amount limit does not apply to other methods of payment (such as electronic payments), so please consider paying by means other than check.

Paying Electronically.   Payment of the tax due shown on Form 706 may be submitted electronically through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). EFTPS is a free service of the Department of Treasury.

  To be considered timely, payments made through EFTPS must be completed no later than 8 p.m. Eastern time the day before the due date. All EFTPS payments must be scheduled in advance of the due date and, if necessary, may be changed or cancelled up to two business days before the scheduled payment date.

  To get more information about EFTPS or to enroll, visit or call 1-800-555-4477. Additional information about EFTPS is available in Publication 966, Electronic Federal Tax Payment System: A Guide to Getting Started.

Signature and Verification

If there is more than one executor, all listed executors are responsible for the return. However, it is sufficient for only one of the co-executors to sign the return.

All executors are responsible for the return as filed and are liable for penalties imposed for erroneous or false returns.

If two or more persons are liable for filing the return, they should all join together in filing one complete return. However, if they are unable to join in making one complete return, each is required to file a return disclosing all the information the person has about the estate, including the name of every person holding an interest in the property and a full description of the property. If the appointed, qualified, and acting executor is unable to make a complete return, then every person holding an interest in the property must, on notice from the IRS, make a return regarding that interest.

The executor who files the return must, in every case, sign the declaration on page 1 under penalties of perjury.

Generally, anyone who is paid to prepare the return must sign the return in the space provided and fill in the Paid Preparer Use Only area. See section 7701(a)(36)(B) for exceptions.

In addition to signing and completing the required information, the paid preparer must give a copy of the completed return to the executor.


A paid preparer may sign original or amended returns by rubber stamp, mechanical device, or computer software program.

Amending Form 706

If you find that you must change something on a return that has already been filed, you should: 

  • File another Form 706;

  • Enter “Supplemental Information” across the top of page 1 of the form; and

  • Attach a copy of pages 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the original Form 706 that has already been filed.

If you have already been notified that the return has been selected for examination, you should provide the additional information directly to the office conducting the examination.

Supplemental Documents

Note.    You must attach the death certificate to the return.

If the decedent was a citizen or resident of the United States and died testate (leaving a valid will), attach a certified copy of the will to the return. If you cannot obtain a certified copy, attach a copy of the will and an explanation of why it is not certified. Other supplemental documents may be required as explained later. Examples include Forms 712, Life Insurance Statement; 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return; and 706-CE, Certificate of Payment of Foreign Death Tax; trust and power of appointment instruments; and state certification of payment of death taxes. If you do not file these documents with the return, the processing of the return will be delayed.

If the decedent was a U.S. citizen but not a resident of the United States, you must attach the following documents to the return:

  1. A copy of the inventory of property and the schedule of liabilities, claims against the estate, and expenses of administration filed with the foreign court of probate jurisdiction, certified by a proper official of the court;

  2. A copy of the return filed under the foreign inheritance, estate, legacy, succession tax, or other death tax act, certified by a proper official of the foreign tax department, if the estate is subject to such a foreign tax; and

  3. If the decedent died testate, a certified copy of the will.

Rounding Off to Whole Dollars

You may show the money items on the return and accompanying schedules as whole-dollar amounts. To do so, drop the cents from any amount with less than 50 cents and increase any amount with 50 to 99 cents to the next dollar. For example, $1.39 becomes $1 and $2.55 becomes $3. If you have to add two or more amounts to compute an item's value, include the cents when adding the amounts and round off only the total.


Late filing and late payment.   Section 6651 provides for penalties for both late filing and for late payment unless there is reasonable cause for the delay. The law also provides for penalties for willful attempts to evade payment of tax. The late filing penalty will not be imposed if the taxpayer can show that the failure to file a timely return is due to reasonable cause.

Reasonable cause determinations.   If you receive a notice about penalties after you file Form 706, send an explanation and we will determine if you meet reasonable cause criteria. Do not attach an explanation when you file Form 706. Explanations attached to the return at the time of filing will not be considered.

Valuation understatement.   Section 6662 provides a 20% penalty for the underpayment of estate tax that exceeds $5,000 when the underpayment is attributable to valuation understatements. A valuation understatement occurs when the value of property reported on Form 706 is 65% or less of the actual value of the property.

  This penalty increases to 40% if there is a gross valuation understatement. A gross valuation understatement occurs if any property on the return is valued at 40% or less of the value determined to be correct.

Penalties also apply to late filing, late payment, and underpayment of GST taxes.

Return preparer.   Estate tax return preparers who prepare any return or claim for refund which reflects an understatement of tax liability due to an unreasonable position are subject to a penalty equal to the greater of $1,000 or 50% of the income earned (or to be earned) for the preparation of each such return. Estate tax return preparers who prepare a return or claim for refund which reflects an understatement of tax liability due to willful or reckless conduct, are subject to a penalty of $5,000 or 50% of the income earned (or income to be earned), whichever is greater, for the preparation of each such return. See sections 6694(a) and 6694(b), the related regulations, and Ann. 2009-15, 2009-11 I.R.B. 687 (available at for more information.

Obtaining Forms and Publications To File or Use

Internet.   You can access the IRS website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at to:

  • Download forms, instructions, and publications;

  • Order IRS products online;

  • Research your tax questions online;

  • Search publications online by topic or keyword; and

  • Sign up to receive local and national tax news by email.

Other forms that may be required.   
  • Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card.

  • Form 706-CE, Certificate of Payment of Foreign Death Tax.

  • Form 706-NA, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, Estate of nonresident not a citizen of the United States.

  • Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return.

  • Form 712, Life Insurance Statement.

  • Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative.

  • Form 4768, Application for Extension of Time To File a Return and/or Pay U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Taxes.

  • Form 4808, Computation of Credit for Gift Tax.

  • Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization.

  • Form 8822, Change of Address.

  • Form 8971, Information Regarding Beneficiaries Acquiring Property From a Decedent.

Additional Information.   The following publications may assist you in learning about and preparing Form 706:
  • Publication 559, Survivors, Executors, and Administrators.

  • Publication 910, IRS Guide to Free Tax Services.


For information about release of nonresident U.S. citizen decedents' assets using transfer certificates under Regulations section 20.6325-1, write to:

Internal Revenue Service 
Cincinnati, OH 45999 
Stop 824G

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