Income in respect of a decedent refers to income that the decedent had a right to receive at the time of death, but that is not reported on his or her final return. It does not include earnings on savings or investments that accrue after death.
Say a taxpayer who has a substantial amount in money-market mutual funds dies on June 30th. Only interest earned up to that date would be reported on the final tax return. Earnings after that date are taxable to the beneficiary of the account, or to the estate.
That can create some hassles since the payer – a mutual fund, bank or broker, for example – will report income to the IRS on a 1099 form. Although you should try to get ownership of the account changed as quickly as possible after the death of the owner, the 1099 income report may well show more income assigned to the decedent than it should. In such cases, you must report the entire amount on Schedule B of the decedent's return, and then deduct the amount that is being reported by the estate or other beneficiary who actually received the income.
Money you inherit is generally not subject to the federal income tax. If you inherit a $100,000 certificate of deposit, for example, the $100,000 is not taxable. Only interest on it from the time you become the owner is taxed. If you receive interest that accrued but was not paid prior to the owner's death, however, it is considered income in respect of a decedent and is taxable on your return.