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Unemployment Stimulus: Am I Eligible for the New Unemployment Income Relief?

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The recently passed third stimulus relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan, expands federal unemployment benefits and provides tax free unemployment benefits.  

If you received unemployment benefits, TurboTax is here to help you understand what all of this means and to help you get every dollar you deserve.

Here is what you need to know:

The bill makes the first $10,200 of federal unemployment income ($20,400 for married filing jointly) tax-free for households with income less than $150,000. The legislation excludes only 2020 federal unemployment benefits from taxes, not unemployment income received in 2021.

  • If you have not filed your 2020 tax return, yet, TurboTax is up to date with the new law and will guide you on how to claim these additional unemployment benefits on your tax return. 
  • If you already filed your 2020 tax return, you do not need to do anything to get these additional unemployment benefits. The IRS announced that they will automatically adjust your return and send any additional refund amount directly to you. However, some people may now be newly eligible for additional deductions and credits not already included on the original tax return. In these cases, you will likely want to amend your return to claim these additional dollars. Additional information on this is below.

When will I get my additional unemployment refund from the IRS?

According to the IRS, they will send payments in two phases:

  • Phase 1: The IRS will adjust returns for taxpayers eligible for up to $10,200 exclusion. Payments for phase 1 started the week of May 14.
  • Phase 2: The IRS will adjust returns for those married filing jointly taxpayers who are eligible for the up to $20,400 exclusion and others with more complex returns. 

The IRS issued millions of refunds the first week of June and plans to issue the next set of refunds sometime in mid-June. The IRS will continue to review returns and process corrections during the summer. The IRS is reviewing returns in order from the simplest returns and then to more complex returns.

Taxpayers will receive letters from the IRS generally within 30 days of the adjustment informing them of what kind of adjustment was made and the amount.

How will I receive my additional unemployment refund amount from the IRS? 

The IRS will issue refunds resulting from this unemployment income relief by direct deposit for taxpayers who provided bank account information on their 2020 tax return. 

If valid bank account information is not available, the refund will be mailed as a paper check to the address of record. The IRS will continue to send refunds until all identified tax returns have been reviewed and adjusted.

These refunds are subject to normal offset rules such as past-due federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support or student loans. The IRS will send a separate notice to the taxpayer if the refund is offset to pay unpaid debts.

How do I know if I am now eligible for additional deductions and credits, and what do I do to get them?

It’s a bit tricky.

The IRS will adjust your return and the amounts for any deductions and credits you claimed on it. For example, say you claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) on your return. And because the new unemployment exclusion changed your income level, you would now be eligible for an increase in EITC amount. The IRS would adjust your return for you and send you the additional refund amount with your additional unemployment benefits. You are all set.

The IRS is also making corrections to Earned Income Tax Credit, Premium Tax Credit and the Recovery Rebate Credit since taxpayers may be eligible for these credits with the $10,200 income exclusion.

However, say you were not originally eligible for the EITC on your return, but now, because the exclusion changed your income, you are eligible for the EITC. You may need to amend your return to claim that new credit based on your tax situation:

  • The IRS can adjust tax returns for those who are single with no children and the exclusion makes them eligible for EITC.  
  • Taxpayers who have qualifying children and become eligible for any new benefits once the exclusion is calculated may have to file an amended tax return to claim new benefits.

If you chose not to amend your return, you’d only get the additional unemployment benefits automatically from the IRS and would miss out on additional money you’d be eligible for. 

The IRS can also adjust tax returns that already include EITC and qualifying children. If you filed with TurboTax, check your inbox. We sent you an email to help you understand how all this affects you and with instructions on what to do.

How do I know how much unemployment income I received?

When it’s time to file your taxes, you will receive Form 1099-G, which will show the amount of unemployment income you received. Form 1099-G will also show any federal taxes you had taken out of your unemployment pay. You are now entitled to exclude the first $10,200 of federal unemployment income from paying any taxes.

Both my spouse and I received unemployment. Are we both eligible?

Under the American Rescue Plan, if you are married, each spouse receiving unemployment compensation doesn’t have to pay tax on unemployment compensation of up to $10,200, if your modified adjusted gross income is less than $150,000.

If I received a subsidy to pay for 2020 health insurance, will I have to include my unemployment income and pay back the advance premium tax credit?

No you will not have to pay it back. Due to the challenges involved in estimating 2020 income when applying for a subsidy, the American Rescue Plan temporarily waives the requirement for taxpayers to pay back excess advance premium tax credits in their 2020 taxes regardless of your income level. In addition, the first $10,200 of your federal unemployment income is tax-free under the American Rescue Plan.

If you filed your 2020 taxes before the American Rescue Plan was passed the IRS will be making adjustments to the Premium Tax Credit since you may be eligible for a bigger Premium Tax Credit with the $10,200 exclusion provided by the American Rescue Plan.

How much are federal unemployment benefits under the third stimulus package? 

The American Rescue Plan provides a $300 increase to federal unemployment payments until September 6, 2021. And freelancers and side giggers will continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits with the extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

We’ve Got You Covered

TurboTax has you covered with the most up-to-date information regarding new legislation, tax filing changes, and announcements in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19). TurboTax has proactive guidance related to the events that occured last year and will ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for. If you have a simple tax return (1040 and no schedules), you may be able to file your federal and state taxes for free with TurboTax Free Edition.

You can find the latest information on the tax changes and announcements in response to COVID-19, here. Also check back with the Unemployment Center for tax tips, advice, and up to date information related to COVID-19 to help you with your taxes and finances in this time of need.

Katharina Reekmans

Katharina Reekmans is an Enrolled Agent and a contributor to the TurboTax Blog team. Katharina has years of experience in tax preparation and representation before the IRS. Her passions surround financial literary and tax law interpretation. She has a strong commitment to using all resources and knowledge to best serve the interest of clients. Katharina has worked as a senior tax accountant, operations manager, and controller. Katharina prides herself on unraveling tax laws so that the average person can understand them. More from Katharina Reekmans

104 responses to “Unemployment Stimulus: Am I Eligible for the New Unemployment Income Relief?”

  1. still waiting as well. Spoke with irs and they haven’t even started on mines yet. Said they will send a letter to me once they make an adjustment

  2. Got a letter from the IRS today saying we qualified for the difference. No time was listed as to when. But we have received nothing as of now.

  3. MFJ no dependants, only one with Unemployment, I received mine this morning in my Wells Fargo acct. Turbo take shows nothing and I received my transcript from IRS on Monday requested 6/8 but that was still dated as of May 31st. It appears they are not updating anything but just issuing refunds then updating. I was tempted to Amend but decided to wait another week. Glad I did, amended returns seem to be taking longer. Good luck to all still waiting!

  4. My husband said on the irs website that they were to start refunding the married filing joints mid June so hopefully won’t be much longer 🤞

  5. Any update on when we will get the refund? I filed my taxes as single. My fiancé received his unemployment refund already at the beginning of June, but I have yet to receive mine and I filed my taxes before him.

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