What the Second Stimulus Payment Means For You

Unemployment Benefits, Job Loss and Taxes

Unemployment

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Unemployment benefit payments are extended until March 14, 2021 and they will increase by $300 per week as a result of the December 2020 second stimulus payment package. Find out if you qualify and what your second stimulus payment might be. Over 23 million individuals have filed for unemployment during 2020. For the first time, some self-employed workers qualified for unemployment benefits.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which are unemployment benefit payments self-employed, independent contractors or freelancers, and gig-economy workers. Essentially, these are unemployment benefits to those who are generally eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits. If you are self-employed with at least $5,000 a year self employment income and also have other employee based income through an employer you might be disqualified Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit payments you might be eligible for an additional $100 per week in unemployment benefits payments.

Unemployment
2020 Tax Return
Unemployment Benefits in 2020
Any unemployment compensation received during 2020 must be reported on your 2020 IRS Tax Return. Unemployment Benefits are taxable IRS income. Ready to eFile? Contact us now about special promo codes for unemployed taxpayers who lost their job in 2020 before you prepare and e-File your taxes here on eFile.com by April 15, 2021. See the list below if unemployment benefits are also subject to state income taxes.
Unemployment Amount in 2020
Your State's Unemployment office should sent you a 1099-G by January 31, 2021. If your state does not mail out Form 1099-G, see our state page and find how to contact the state or visit the state’s website. Box 1 will show the benefits received and Box 4 will show the federal income taxes withheld. This information will be reported on your tax return on eFile.com by following a simple tax interview.
Unemployment Compensation Tax Withholding
Contact your state unemployment office first to have taxes withheld from your unemployment compensation. Estimate your 2021 unemployment based tax withholding now for next year's return. Not all states tax unemployment income.
How to pay taxes due after Unemployment?
Option 1: You can make 1040-ES estimate IRS tax payments online. If you do that, you don't have to mail in the Form 1040-ES.
Option 2: Complete your W-4 Form once you have a new job and have taxes withheld that way. Use the eFile.com Paycheck Calculator or Withholding tool to determine our withholding amount. You can also complete the W-4 Form online before you mail it to your employer not the IRS.

Second Stimulus Payment and Unemployment

The basic criteria to file for and be approved for unemployment benefits is that you, through no fault of your own, lost your job or have been laid off.

How Did the Coronavirus affect Unemployment?

As a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic and economic crisis, more than 36 million employees or taxpayers filed for unemployment benefits by May 2020. That number has steadily declined as Americans return to work slowly. If you are a part of this group, these payments are taxable income to you and must be reported on your 2020 Tax Return, regardless of when you received them during the year. This includes your federal return as well as your state tax return.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, created a new, temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA. Additionally, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, was created.

The PUA provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits, including those who have used up those benefits. This was given an additional 7 weeks, leading to a total of 46 weeks - originally 39. Individuals who can possibly get PUA include the self-employed (e.g. independent contractors, gig economy workers, and workers for certain religious entities), those seeking part-time employment, individuals lacking sufficient work history, and those who otherwise do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits.

While the PUA made it easier for more people to claim benefits while extending the time period, the PEUC served only as an extension of weeks. This extension was automatically applied, if applicable. The two acts were not applied at the same time and each expired at the end of 2020.

Unemployment benefits had been enhanced through July, providing up to an additional $600 per payment under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC. This amount is still taxable as it is part of your unemployment benefit package.

For state unemployment, the application and approval process for unemployment benefits varies by state. In most cases, in order to be approved for unemployment benefits, you must have been employed at your last job for a certain time period before you got laid off.

In most states, unemployment benefits are paid weekly for 26 weeks after the unemployment application and approval process. Some states offer different maximum weeks for unemployment compensation, such as Montana at 28 weeks or Florida at 12 weeks (see table below). For most states, extended benefits went into effect during the pandemic.

Unemployment and Income Taxes

Unemployment compensation is considered taxable income by the IRS and most states, thus you are required to report all unemployment income as reported on Form 1099-G on your income tax return. You should be mailed a Form 1099-G before January 31, 2021 for Tax Year 2020 stating exactly how much in taxable unemployment benefits you received.

Tax Withholding in 2021: If you think you will still receive unemployment benefits in 2021, start and estimate your 2021 Income Tax Return first and factor in the unemployment benefit payments or income. If you see a result of large tax refund, you should start withholding taxes from your unemployment benefit payments or other income you might have (e.g. W-2, 1099 income, etc.). Based on the estimated tax return results, you might want to have 10% withheld for IRS or Federal taxes. To do so, complete the Voluntary Tax Withholding Request Form W-4V and submit to your state tax agency (click your state below and scroll to the bottom for the state agency address). The state agency will then withhold federal income taxes from your unemployment benefit payments. Alternatively, you can also submit Form 1040-ES with quarterly tax estimate payments - FileIT. Pay your IRS taxes online.

Sample Payment Types to check Tax Withholding on

  • Disability benefits paid as a substitute for unemployment compensation
  • Unemployment assistance under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974
  • Unemployment assistance under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 Program
  • Trade readjustment allowances under the Trade Act of 1974
  • Benefits paid by a state or the District of Columbia from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund
  • Railroad unemployment compensation benefits

If you need to estimate other W-2 related W-4 based tax withholding, use the free eFile.com WITHHOLDucator.

Severance Pay and Other Compensation

Remember that any severance pay or unemployment compensation you receive is taxable, in addition to any payouts received for accumulated vacation or sick time. Be sure that enough tax is withheld from these payments. Make sure you receive your final W-2 from your former employer to use for your tax return. Companies are not required to send out W-2s right away, but must provide them to all employees (even former ones) by January 31 of the following year. If you have left the company, this would be the year after you leave.

Health Insurance and Job Loss

Did you know that a federal law, known as COBRA, requires your employer to allow you health coverage under their policy for up to 18 months after you are laid off? Note that the law doesn't cover firings for gross misconduct. COBRA is a continuation of health coverage policy that stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. You must pay the full cost of the premium, plus an administrative fee. If you are healthy, check around as you may find cheaper premiums than what you would spend on a COBRA policy.

When you lose your job-based health insurance, compare rates from COBRA and the Marketplace. Weigh the pros and cons of each and decide on one that best suits your needs as a single taxpayer or a family plan, if applicable. COBRA gives you 60 days after losing your job to make this decision. You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if you miss the deadline for either COBRA or the Marketplace due to the pandemic. 

If you get a high-deductible policy, you can set up a Health Savings Account (HSA), which lets you make tax-deductible contributions and withdraw the money tax-free for qualified medical expenses. You will still need to report your health insurance coverage on your return in the year that you lose your job if you wish to claim the Premium Tax Credit. If your health insurance changes as a result of your job loss, or if you get another job, be sure to report any income changes or loss of health insurance to the Marketplace if you are claiming the Premium Tax Credit.

Using Retirement Savings For Expenses

If you withdrew from your retirement plan during the pandemic, find information below.

Losing your job is tough and you might be tempted to dip into your qualified retirement plan, IRA, or 401(k) account. Try not to do this if you can. If you cash in your retirement plans, you will pay tax on every dime you withdraw unless you have made after-tax contributions or you have certain extenuating circumstances. Even worse, if you are under age 59 1/2 in the year you leave your job, you will also be hit with a 10% early withdrawal tax penalty. Make sure that you don’t jeopardize your retirement savings and compromise your long-term financial health.

However, if you have enough money in your 401(k) account, you can leave your money with your old employer where it will continue to grow. You may be better off transferring your 401k balance to an IRA where you would have almost unlimited investment options. You can request your old employer to send the money to the IRA. If you have the money paid to you with the idea that you will deposit it in the new plan, the law requires your old plan sponsor to withhold 20% of your money for the IRS. It's tough to roll over money that's been confiscated by the IRS.

You are also able to roll 401(k) money directly into a Roth IRA. For now, however, if you want to use the Roth option, you must transfer your money to a regular IRA and then convert that account into a Roth. In either case, you have to pay taxes on the amount shifted to the Roth IRA, but all withdrawals after retirement will be tax-free. If part of your 401(k) is invested in your old company's stock, be sure to check out the special rules for net unrealized appreciation in IRS Publication 575 - Pension and Annuity Income, which could save you money.

Self-Employment

If you lose your job, you may decide to start your own business. New business owners should check out the information that the IRS provides for you in IRS Publication 334 - Tax Guide For Small Business. You should also review the tax implications of being newly self-employed and learn about the different kinds of 1099 forms.

Unemployment Benefits and State Taxes

Unemployment benefits are subject to IRS income taxes. The table below shows state income taxes and unemployment organized by the following:
Weeks: The maximum number of weeks the state will pay unemployment benefits within a tax year.
Benefit: The maximum dollar amount per week paid by the state in unemployment benefits.
Max.: The maximum dollar amount per tax year paid by the state in unemployment benefits.
State Taxes: Indicates if the unemployment benefits are subject to state income taxes for the given tax year.
Data below is as of May 22, 2020 and is subject to change.

State
Weeks
Benefit
Max.
State Taxes
14
$275
$5,500
26
$370
$9,620
26
$597
$15,522
26
$649
$16,874
26
$400
$10,400
26
$432
$11,232
12
$275
$3,300
26
$365
$9,490
26
$648
$16,848
22
$414
$8,694
26
$648
$16,848
26
$390
$10,140
26
$591
$15,366
26
$488
$12,688
26
$552
$14,352
26
$247
$6,422
26
$414
$10.764
26
$430
$11,180
26
$823
$21,398
26
$362
$9,412
26
$717
$18,642
26
$235
$6,110
20
$320
$6,400
28
$552
$15,456
26
$440
$11,440
26
$450
$11,700
26
$427
$11,102
26
$696
$18,096
26
$475
$12,350
26
$435
$11,310
12
$350
$7,000
26
$606
$15,756
26
$598
$15,548
26
$520
$13,520
26
$538
$13,988
26
$561
$14,586
26
$707
$18382
20
$390
$6,520
26
$390
$10,140
26
$275
$7,150
26
$507
$13,182
26
$543
$14,118
26
$466
$12,116
26
$378
$9,828
26
$713
$18,538
26
$424
$11,024
26
$370
$9,620
26
$489
$12,714

View individual state pages for specific information and links to state government websites. Report your unemployment income when you file your 2020 Taxes. When you prepare your return on eFile.com, we will help report the information so you do not have to worry about how to file and how much is taxed.

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