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1) I need to know if I can file his final 1040 return electronically?

Yes, you can. However, the professional community I chat with has had an unusually large number of e-filing rejects for deceased taxpayers this year. Unofficially, it seems that Social Security and IRS are misinterpreting each other in this area. So I would be prepared for the possibility of the e-filing to fail.

Frankly, it's not that big of a deal. If it rejects, just file on paper.

In either case, don't forget to include Form 1310, which is required to obtain a refund for a deceased taxpayer.

do I really need to file a 4868 since the IRS states there is no penalty for filing a late return if one is due a refund.

There is no penalty, but there is the [very slim] possibility that you'd need to make some kind of election on that return. And some elections must be made on a timely filed return. If you don't file the extension, you can't make that election.

It takes just a few moments to file the extension. If you want to do it electronically, just do it now. No sense in waiting until the last minute. (I've already filed half a dozen extensions for clients who have requested that.) And if it rejects (see above), you will still have plenty of time to file the paper extension, and you'll know to go straight to paper for the actual return.

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