CARES AND COVID TAX RELIEF ACTS
With the passage of the CARES Act stimulus package early in 2020, the federal government began supplementing the normal state weekly unemployment benefits by adding $600 per week through the end of July 2020. When this provision ran out, and with Congress at a stalemate, President Trump issued an executive order in early August that extended the supplement, but at $400 per week, with the federal government providing $300 and the state the other $100. Then, the COVID Tax Relief Act that was enacted in late December of 2020 extended the federal unemployment supplement through March 14, 2021, but at $300 per week. Now, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan that Congress enacted in March of 2021 has extended the $300 benefit through September 9, 2021, and increased the number of weeks an individual can qualify for the benefits from 50 to 74.
See Relax Tax’s Tax Audit Assistance at relaxtax.com/audit
American Rescue Plan Act
The American Rescue Plan Act originally slated the weekly amount to be $400. That was before a provision to treat the first $10,200 of unemployment income as tax exempt was included, at which point the weekly supplemental amount was reduced to $300. However, the tax exemption of the first $10,200 of unemployment compensation will only apply to taxpayers with AGIs less than $150,000. Prior to this change, unemployment benefits were fully taxable income for federal purposes.
This change is retroactive to 2020, and if you have already filed your 2020 tax return, on which you included unemployment compensation, and you qualify for the income exclusion, the return can be amended to take advantage of the up to $10,200 tax-exempt portion of the unemployment income. There is a remote chance the IRS might make the adjustment automatically.
See this related post from Dennis Harabin: Unemployment Tax Exclusion: Will IRS Process Refunds Automatically?
Normally, unemployment insurance benefits are fully taxable for federal purposes. However, earlier this year, about the middle of the tax filing season, Congress, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, decided that each individual who received unemployment benefits could exclude the first $10,200 of those benefits from taxation if their modified AGI was less than $150,000.
Those who received unemployment benefits will be sent a Form 1099-G (Certain Government Payments) from the state that paid the benefits. This tax form shows the amount of unemployment benefits paid to the individual during 2020 and the amount of income tax withheld, if any.
There have been reports of people receiving Form 1099-G when they never applied for and didn’t collect any unemployment benefits for 2020. In these cases, the individual’s personal information was apparently used fraudulently by someone else to claim the unemployment benefits. If this happens to you, you should contact the government office that issued the erroneous form to request a correction.
See this related post from Dennis Harabin: IRS to Automatically Adjust Prior Filed 2020 Returns with Unemployment Income
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed on March 11, allows each taxpayer who earned less than $150,000 in modified adjusted gross income to exclude up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation from taxation. Since it applies to each taxpayer, married couples where both spouses received unemployment benefits may be able to exclude up to $20,400 if married filing status. The legislation excludes only 2020 unemployment benefits from taxes.
Kiddie Tax and Unemployment
Also, be aware that children under age 19, or full-time students over age 18 and under age 24 with unearned income in excess of $2,200, are subject to what is referred to as the kiddie tax. The kiddie tax taxes the child’s unearned income at the parent’s rate. Normally, we think of unearned income as being interest, dividends and capital gains, but certain other types of income, including unemployment benefits, are considered to be unearned income. This can lead to some unpleasant tax surprises, as those who have already filed their 2020 tax returns may have discovered. But the $10,200 retroactive exclusion should eliminate the unemployment tax for most kiddie tax returns. An amended return may be needed in this situation.
Congress considers our tax system a “pay-as-you-earn” system. To facilitate that concept, the government has provided several means of assisting taxpayers in meeting the “pay-as-you-earn” requirement. These include Payroll withholding for employees; Pension withholding for retirees; and Estimated tax payments for self-employed individuals and those with other sources of income not covered by withholding.
States’ Taxation of Unemployment
There are several states where unemployment benefits are not taxable. Of those, seven states do not have a state income tax, so obviously, unemployment benefits are not taxable in those states, which are the following:
- South Dakota
Several states have state income tax but do not have tax unemployment benefits:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
Two states exempt 50% of amounts above $12,000 (single taxpayer) or $18,000 (married taxpayers):
The remaining states fully tax unemployment benefits.
A word of caution: Some states may pass laws to conform to the federal treatment, or even automatically conform. Unfortunately, that information was not available when this article was prepared.
See this related post from Dennis Harabin: 10 Tax-Saving Strategies to Consider Before Year-End
It seems hard to believe, but the holiday season is almost upon us, and that means that the 2021 tax preparation season will soon follow. With the end of the tax year just around the corner, tax-savvy individuals need to take some time from their busy schedules to review the tax benefit steps they’ve already taken and see what else they need to do. Now is the time to ensure that you’ve taken advantage of all of the tax-saving strategies available to you.
If you’ve collected unemployment compensation, the benefits’ impact on your tax bill will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of unemployment income you received, whether your benefits are covered by the $10,200 exclusion, what other income you have, whether you are single or married (and, if married, whether you and your spouse are both receiving unemployment benefits), and whether you had or have income tax withheld from benefit payments.
If you have questions about the taxation of unemployment compensation, please give this office a call at 551-249-1040.
Dennis Harabin at Relax Tax is an expert in taxes, insurance, and debt. Contact him today!