Tax Treatment of Unemployment Compensation

Unemployment compensation is taxable. However, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allows an exclusion of unemployment compensation of up to $10,200 for individuals for taxable year 2020. In the case of married individuals filing a joint Form 1040 or 1040-SR, this exclusion is up to $10,200 per spouse. To qualify for this exclusion, your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be less than $150,000. This threshold applies to all filing statuses and it doesn't double to $300,000 if you are married and file a joint return. Any unemployment compensation in excess of $10,200 ($10,200 per spouse if married filing jointly) should still be included on the tax return as taxable income.

Already filed a tax return?

In most cases, if you already filed a tax return that includes the full amount of your unemployment compensation, the IRS will automatically determine the correct taxable amount of unemployment compensation and the correct tax. If you paid more than the correct tax amount, the IRS will either refund the overpayment or apply it to other outstanding taxes owed. The first refunds are expected to be made in May and will continue throughout the summer. There is no need to call the IRS or file a Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. See IRS to recalculate taxes on unemployment benefits; refunds to start in May for guidance. However, if as a result of the excluded unemployment compensation you now qualify for deductions or credits not claimed on your original return, you should file an amended return. For example, if you did not claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) on your originally filed return because your AGI was too high, but the exclusion allowed for unemployment compensation now reduces your AGI, you should file an amended return to claim the credit if now eligible.

Preparing your tax return now?

If you are preparing you own tax return, you must determine if you are eligible for the exclusion by considering whether your AGI is less than $150,000. Filing electronically is the easiest way to calculate the correct amount. 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 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.

For additional information and scenarios, see the Unemployment Compensation Exclusion FAQs.

Victim of unemployment fraud?

Criminals using stolen identities filed claims for unemployment compensation in other people's names. Because unemployment compensation is taxable, state unemployment agencies submit Forms 1099-G to individuals in whose names and Social Security numbers the unemployment compensation was paid and to the IRS. Victims of fraud who receive Forms 1099-G with inaccurate amounts of unemployment compensation in Box 1 should notify the state agencies of the inaccuracies and request corrected Forms 1099-G. The Department of Labor details how to report fraud and protect yourself.

Taxpayers should only report income they actually received on their tax returns. Do not report income you did not receive. The IRS offers tax guidance to victims at Identity Theft and Unemployment Benefits.

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