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San Antonio tax help lawyerDo you owe 2020 income taxes even though the IRS is now not taxing the first $10,200 of unemployment income? What to do and not to do.

Last week we discussed the extent to which unemployment income is not taxed because of the American Rescue Plan Act. Generally, you don’t pay federal (and possibly state) income tax on the first $10,200 in benefits you received in 2020. Section 9042(a) of the Act. (See our last blog post about qualifying for this, and other details.)

Let’s get into two significant practical problems you may still have in spite of this substantial benefit:

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Posted on in Income Taxes

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If you are among the one in four Americans who received unemployment benefits during the pandemic, the IRS is not taxing the first $10,200 of it. 

Unemployment Benefits Are Generally Taxable

As the IRS states plainly, “[i]f you received unemployment compensation during the year, you must include it in gross income.” Unemployment Compensation, IRS Topic No. 418. Furthermore, “unemployment compensation” explicitly includes not just the usual “state unemployment insurance benefits.” It also includes “Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation provided under the . . . CARES Act of 2020.” Unemployment Compensation.

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How are states responding to Trump’s Memorandum providing $400 (or maybe $300?) weekly extended unemployment benefits? It varies widely.

Last week we explained the President’s Memorandum of August 8 which extended reduced federal unemployment benefits. The $600 weekly benefit had expired on July 31. The House of Representatives had previously passed a bill extending the $600 benefits into early next year. The Senate had proposed to extend the benefits but at only $200 weekly. The two Houses of Congress were not resolving their differences. Then the Memorandum directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund supplemental unemployment benefits out of its Disaster Relief Fund. This was to cover $300 of a $400 weekly benefit. The remaining $100 weekly was to come from the states.

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Trump’s Memorandum Providing $400 Weekly Unemployment Benefits from August to December Is Complicated.

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The greatly enhanced unemployment benefits mean much more money each week, for longer, for many more kinds of workers, and for many others.


Our blog post last week was about the emergency $1,200 Economic Impact Payment that’s “rapidly” coming to most American adults. (Plus $500 for each qualifying dependent child.) For updates on this payment since then, see the IRS’ special “Coronavirus Tax Relief” webpage. That links you to its News Release IR-2020-61, which came out on March 30, 2020. It was modified and updated on April 1, specifically about Social Security recipients.

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