IRS to recalculate taxes on unemployment benefits; refunds to start in May
IR-2021-71, March 31, 2021
WASHINGTON — To help taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service announced today that it will take steps to automatically refund money this spring and summer to people who filed their tax return reporting unemployment compensation before the recent changes made by the American Rescue Plan.
The legislation, signed on March 11, allows taxpayers who earned less than $150,000 in modified adjusted gross income to exclude unemployment compensation up to $20,400 if married filing jointly and $10,200 for all other eligible taxpayers. The legislation excludes only 2020 unemployment benefits from taxes.
Because the change occurred after some people filed their taxes, the IRS will take steps in the spring and summer to make the appropriate change to their return, which may result in a refund. The first refunds are expected to be made in May and will continue into the summer.
For those taxpayers who already have filed and figured their tax based on the full amount of unemployment compensation, the IRS will determine the correct taxable amount of unemployment compensation and tax. Any resulting overpayment of tax will be either refunded or applied to other outstanding taxes owed.
For those who have already filed, the IRS will do these recalculations in two phases, starting with those taxpayers eligible for the up to $10,200 exclusion. The IRS will then adjust returns for those married filing jointly taxpayers who are eligible for the up to $20,400 exclusion and others with more complex returns.
There is no need for taxpayers to file an amended return unless the calculations make the taxpayer newly eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on the original tax return.
For example, the 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 originally claim the EITC or other credits but now are eligible because the exclusion changed their income.
These taxpayers may want to review their state tax returns as well.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 23 million U.S. workers nationwide filed for unemployment last year. For the first time, some self-employed workers qualified for unemployed benefits as well. The IRS is working to determine how many workers affected by the tax change already have filed their tax returns.
The new IRS guidance also includes details for those eligible taxpayers who have not yet filed.
The IRS has worked with the tax return preparation software industry to reflect these updates so people who choose to file electronically simply need to respond to the related questions when electronically preparing their tax returns. See New Exclusion of up to $10,200 of Unemployment Compensation for information and examples. For others, instructions and an updated worksheet about the exclusion were available in March and posted to IRS.gov/form1040. These instructions can assist taxpayers who have not yet filed to prepare returns correctly.
2021 tax filing season begins Feb. 12; IRS outlines steps to speed refunds during pandemic
IR-2021-16, January 15, 2021
WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service announced that the nation’s tax season will start on Friday, February 12, 2021, when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.
The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.
This programming work is critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly. If filing season were opened without the correct programming in place, then there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers. These changes ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.
To speed refunds during the pandemic, the IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need. People can begin filing their tax returns immediately with tax software companies, including IRS Free File partners. These groups are starting to accept tax returns now, and the returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting February 12.
“Planning for the nation’s filing season process is a massive undertaking, and IRS teams have been working non-stop to prepare for this as well as delivering Economic Impact Payments in record time,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Given the pandemic, this is one of the nation’s most important filing seasons ever. This start date will ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly as possible.”
Last year’s average tax refund was more than $2,500. More than 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year, with the vast majority before the Thursday, April 15 deadline.
Under the PATH Act, the IRS cannot issue a refund involving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The law provides this additional time to help the IRS stop fraudulent refunds and claims from being issued, including to identity thieves.
The IRS anticipates a first week of March refund for many EITC and ACTC taxpayers if they file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns. This would be the same experience for taxpayers if the filing season opened in late January. Taxpayers will need to check Where’s My Refund for their personalized refund date.
Overall, the IRS anticipates nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically with direct deposit if there are no issues with their tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers and tax professionals to file electronically. To avoid delays in processing, people should avoid filing paper returns wherever possible.
Tips for taxpayers to make filing easier
To speed refunds and help with their tax filing, the IRS urges people to follow these simple steps:
- File electronically and use direct deposit for the quickest refunds.
- Check IRS.gov for the latest tax information, including the latest on Economic Impact Payments. There is no need to call.
- For those who may be eligible for stimulus payments, they should carefully review the guidelines for the Recovery Rebate Credit. Most people received Economic Impact Payments automatically, and anyone who received the maximum amount does not need to include any information about their payments when they file. However, those who didn’t receive a payment or only received a partial payment may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return. Tax preparation software, including IRS Free File, will help taxpayers figure the amount.
- Remember, advance stimulus payments received separately are not taxable, and they do not reduce the taxpayer’s refund when they file in 2021.
Key filing season dates
There are several important dates taxpayers should keep in mind for this year’s filing season:
- January 15. IRS Free File opens. Taxpayers can begin filing returns through Free File partners; tax returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting Feb. 12. Tax software companies also are accepting tax filings in advance.
- January 29. Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day to raise awareness of valuable tax credits available to many people – including the option to use prior-year income to qualify.
- February 12. IRS begins 2021 tax season. Individual tax returns begin being accepted and processing begins.
- February 22. Projected date for the IRS.gov Where’s My Refund tool being updated for those claiming EITC and ACTC, also referred to as PATH Act returns.
- First week of March. Tax refunds begin reaching those claiming EITC and ACTC (PATH Act returns) for those who file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns.
- April 15. Deadline for filing 2020 tax returns.
- October 15. Deadline to file for those requesting an extension on their 2020 tax returns
Filing season opening
The filing season open follows IRS work to update its programming and test its systems to factor in the second Economic Impact Payments and other tax law changes. These changes are complex and take time to help ensure proper processing of tax returns and refunds as well as coordination with tax software industry, resulting in the February 12 start date.
The IRS must ensure systems are prepared to properly process and check tax returns to verify the proper amount of EIP’s are credited on taxpayer accounts – and provide remaining funds to eligible taxpayers.
Although tax seasons frequently begin in late January, there have been five instances since 2007 when filing seasons did not start for some taxpayers until February due to tax law changes made just before the start of tax time.
Updated: January 8, 2021
IR-2021-01, January 4, 2021
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today urged people to visit IRS.gov for the most current information on the second round of Economic Impact Payments rather than calling the agency or their financial institutions or tax software providers. IRS phone assistors do not have additional information beyond what’s available on IRS.gov.
The IRS and the Treasury Department began issuing a second round of Economic Impact Payments, often referred to as stimulus payments, last week.
The direct deposit payments may take several days to post to individual accounts. Some Americans may have seen the direct deposit payments as pending or as provisional payments in their accounts before the scheduled payment date of January 4, 2021, which is the official date funds are available.
Paper checks also began going out and will continue to be sent through January. Some people will be mailed debit cards in January, and the IRS urges people to carefully check their mail. Mailed payments will require more processing and mailing time. Those who reside abroad will have longer wait times for checks as disruptions to air travel and mail delivery in some countries will slow delivery.
The IRS emphasizes that there is no action required by eligible individuals to receive this second payment. The payments are automatic, and people should not contact their financial institutions, tax software providers or the IRS with payment timing questions.
Generally, U.S. citizens and resident aliens who are not eligible to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s income tax return are eligible for this second payment. Eligible individuals will automatically receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $600 for individuals or $1,200 for married couples and up to $600 for each qualifying child. Most people who have an adjusted gross income for 2019 of up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns and surviving spouses, will receive the full amount of the second payment. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced.
Checking the status of a payment
Starting today, people can check the status of both their first and second payments by using the Get My Payment tool, available in English and Spanish only on IRS.gov.
Payment not received or less than expected? Claim on 2020 tax return
Payments started going out last week and will continue through mid-January. Direct deposit payments are being made first to those that have valid routing and account information on file for direct deposit purposes.
Because of the speed at which IRS issued this second round of payments, some payments may have been sent to an account that may be closed or no longer active.
If the second Economic Impact Payment was sent to a temporary account that is closed or is no longer active, the IRS is currently working with our tax industry partners on options to potentially get these payments to individuals as quickly as possible. More information will be shared when available.
While the IRS is exploring options to correct these payments, if you have not received your full payment by the time you file your 2020 tax return, you may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your tax return.
The credit is figured like the Economic Impact Payment, except that the credit eligibility and the credit amount are based on the 2020 tax year information, including income.
For people who received a partial Economic Impact Payment, they can take the Recovery Rebate Credit for any remaining amount they’re eligible for by completing line 30 of the 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
Changing bank account or mailing information
The IRS cannot change payment information, including bank account or mailing information. If an eligible taxpayer does not get a payment or it is less than expected, it may be claimed on the 2020 tax return as the Recovery Rebate Credit. Remember, Economic Impact Payments are an advance payment of what will be called the Recovery Rebate Credit on the 2020 Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR.
For more information about Economic Impact Payments and the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit, visit IRS.gov/eip. People can check the status of their payment at IRS.gov/getmypayment. For other COVID-19-related tax relief, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus.