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Q & A: The $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break

Posted on April 2nd, 2021

Generally, unemployment compensation received under the unemployment compensation laws of the United States or a state is considered taxable income and must be reported on your federal tax return. However, a new tax break — in effect only for the 2020 tax year — lets you exclude the first $10,200 from taxable income. Here’s what you should know:

What do I need to do to get the tax break?

The tax break, which is part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA is available to all taxpayers whose 2020 modified adjusted gross income is less than $150,00 and allows you to exclude the first $10,200 of unemployment compensation received in 2020. For joint returns, the first $10,200 per spouse (i.e., $20,400 for two workers who are married filing jointly) is not included in gross income.

Amounts over $10,200 for each individual taxpayer are still considered taxable income and the tax break only applies to federal income taxes.

Who doesn’t qualify for the tax break?

Taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income of $150,000 or more last year do not qualify for the tax break and are required to file taxes on the full amount of unemployment compensation.

The $150,000 earnings limit does not include amounts received as unemployment compensation.

How do I know how much unemployment compensation I received and how much tax was taken out?

If you received unemployment compensation, you should have received Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments (Info Copy Only). Form 1099-G shows the amount of unemployment compensation paid and any federal income tax you elected to have withheld. Many taxpayers chose to have federal income tax withheld from their unemployment benefits by filling out Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. If you completed the form and gave it to the paying office (e.g., your state’s Department of Labor), they should have withheld tax at 10 percent of your payments.

What if I already filed my 2020 tax return?

If you already filed your 2020 tax return and paid tax on unemployment compensation that qualifies for the tax break, in most cases, there is no need to file an amended return. Taxpayers should only file an amended return if the calculations make the taxpayer newly eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on the original tax return. Taxpayers may want to review their state tax returns as well.

Tax TipThe IRS can adjust returns for those taxpayers who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and because the exclusion changed the income level, may now be eligible for an increase in the EITC amount, which may result in a larger refund. However, taxpayers would have to file an amended return if they did not initially claim the EITC or other credits but now are eligible because the exclusion changed their income.

The IRS will determine the correct taxable amount of unemployment compensation and tax. If there is any overpayment of tax, it will be either refunded or applied to other outstanding taxes owed. The recalculations will take place in two phases; single filers and other taxpayers eligible for the up to $10,200 exclusion, followed by married filing jointly taxpayers eligible for the up to $20,400 exclusion and others with more complex returns.

Questions?

Don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have any questions regarding unemployment compensation and your taxes.

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