What You Need to Know About Taxes If You Collected Unemployment
Tens of millions of Americans collected unemployment last year, many for the first time. You may be doing taxes after collecting unemployment insurance for the first time, and it is important to note that the process is different in a few key ways from traditional employment.
When you start a new job, your employer will typically set up tax withholding, where you pay your taxes out of each paycheck and calculate any refunds or additional payments owed come tax time. Jobless aid is taxed similarly to income but does not usually have taxes automatically taken out. This is likely to lead to millions of Americans facing a surprise tax bill this spring as Goldman Sachs estimates taxes on unemployment insurance received last year could reach $50 billion. 38% of Americans receiving benefits were unaware that unemployment insurance is taxable and could be staring down a major financial shortfall.
If you collected unemployment last year, here's what you need to know as you prepare your taxes.
1. You don't need to pay Social Security or Medicare taxes
You will be expected to pay taxes on unemployment benefits, but those taxes will be slightly less than if you had received the same amount from traditional employment. That is because they are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes, both of which total 7.65% for a usual worker. This means you may be paying a lower tax rate than you expect.
2. You might not need to pay state taxes
If you live in one of the nine states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wyoming) with no state income tax, your unemployment benefits will also not be taxed on the state level. However, five additional states exempt unemployment insurance from taxation. These states are California, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. If you live in one of these states, you only need to worry about federal taxes on your unemployment benefits. You will likely still need to file taxes for any income from regular employment, but this amount will be much less than if your jobless benefits were also taxed at the state level.
However, things get a bit tricky if you live in Indiana or Wisconsin. Both of these states may allow you to exempt a portion of your jobless benefits from taxation, depending on your total income. In both states, you will need to fill out your "Unemployment Compensation Worksheet" to see if you can exclude any portion of the payments you received.
The United States is a patchwork of different tax policies when it comes to unemployment. Know what your state's policy is.
3. Your stimulus payments are not taxable
The federal government issued two rounds of stimulus payments last year; one in April and one in December. These economic income payments are not taxable and are separate from your jobless aid.
4. The government still has time to reduce your tax bill
If you collected unemployment last year, you might want to consider waiting a bit longer before filing taxes. That's because in February of 2021, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, introduced the Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits Tax Relief Act. If passed, this would waive federal income taxes on the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020. This would be a larger version of 2009, when lawmakers provided a similar exemption for up to $2,400 in jobless aid. Right now, it is unclear how likely this bill is to pass both chambers. You may want to consider filing closer to the April 15th deadline or prepare to file an amended return if it does become law.
5. There are options if you cannot afford to pay your tax bill right now
If you haven't set aside enough to pay your tax bill this year, you are not alone and there are other options. The IRS does allow you toapply for a payment plan as well astemporarily delay the collection of your tax debt. Both of these may entail paying interest and fees on top of your tax bill, but this will be much less than if the IRS has to take collection action against you.
If you cannot pay your tax bill by April 15th, contacting the IRS for a payment plan can help you avoid stiff penalties.
6. If you are still on unemployment, set aside money for next year's tax bill
If you haven't been setting aside taxes on your unemployment benefits, you may want to start now to avoid a tax headache next year. Log on to your state's unemployment benefits portal and update your withholding. The federal government will withhold 10 percent of your unemployment income toward your taxes. If you don't, you are still on the hook for the taxes and must determine and pay quarterly estimates on your unemployment income.
7. You may qualify for new tax deductions and credits
Many people saw their incomes reduced by going on unemployment, and this could open up new opportunities to save on your taxes this year. If you were able to work for part of the year, you may now qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a credit for working people with low to moderate income. Unemployment is not considered "earned" income in this case, so you will likely only qualify if you earned income from traditional work this year. Your exact qualification will depend on a variety of factors including your dependents, your filing status, and your total earned income.
If you were able to save last year, you may also be able to qualify for the saver's credit. This would allow you to receive a credit of between 10% to 50% of your contribution to retirement account, depending on your income and filing status. Remember that you still have time to claim this credit as the deadline to contribute to last year's IRA is not Tax Day this year. If you qualify, you may wish to make a contribution before filing taxes in order to claim the credit.
Your state may have additional credits for you to take advantage of, such as the income-based renter's credit in thirteen states. Look at the tax credits available in your state to take full advantage of any help available in what may be a lower-earnings year for you.
Disclaimer: Paypath and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting services. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. If you have any concerns regarding your unique tax situation, you should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors.
Every time payday rolls around, I’m on top of the world. Jeff Bezos-level rich - even though I’m anything but. And then somehow the very next day, rent is due.
The cycle continues. The next payday, bills for my apartment. I find myself without a surplus of savings since I just moved and newly-furnished my apartment completely.
Even more terrifying is the looming presence of the holiday season. Halloween’s officially over and before we know it, hello Thanksgiving…and then there’s Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s insane.
I’ve been feeling very British lately. Not in a Union-Jack-obsessed, “Keep Calm and Carry-On” way. I went through that phase in 2012 with everyone else… no thank you. And it’s not even a surge of patriotism catalyzed by the Queen dying — I’m firmly team Diana and team Meghan.
Now that fall is officially here, the holidays will sweep in and I’ll have to contend with the fact that I won’t be spending them with my family in the UK. I went home to London earlier this year, so there’s not much left in my travel budget for another trip across the pond. A few domestic jaunts might be in my future, but the closest I’ll get to England this winter is watching Love Island and Love, Actually.
So in that spirit, I’ve been filling my days with content from my favorite Brits. I’m listening to all the old British rock bands I grew up listening to, patiently awaiting the new Arctic Monkeys album, and rewatching anything with Michaela Coel in it. I even shipped myself an order of British Baked Beans, so you know it’s dire.
I’ve also been watching British YouTubers like Grace Beverley — my favorite. Generally, I only go on YouTube to watch Vogue Beauty Secrets and AD Open Door videos. But I’m so glad I stumbled on Grace. Her content is a mix of London lifestyle (what lured me in), relatable entrepreneurship, and mindful productivity. I’m not a hustle-and-grind-girlboss, but as a creative person in a 9-to-5, I need all the help I can get to stay plugged in. So, the video “how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmed” changed my approach to WFH.
Grace outlines her own productivity method: the to-do table. Instead of making a simple to-do list, she divides her tasks into a table that anyone can follow. As someone who’s survived with to-do lists for years, I recently implemented Grace’s method, and it’s revolutionized my workdays.
how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmedwww.youtube.com
I follow her routine to a tee. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, she divides her daily responsibilities into four categories: quick ticks, tasks, projects, and non-negotiables.
- Quick Ticks: Actions that take less than 5-minutes
- Tasks: To-do’s that take up to 30-minutes. Probably don’t take too much brain energy.
- Projects: Long-term list items. These help guide your priorities, even if you’re not crossing them off in one day.
- Non-negotiables: Pick 3 things each day that you must get done. This is how you’ll truly measure success.
With everything written down and sorted, next address your schedule. Meetings, deadlines, and time blocks — whatever works best for you. Write it down. Then make a pact with yourself to stick to them.
This way of categorization provides a roadmap for prioritizing your day — making you far more productive. Have you ever spent the entire day on small tasks and then suddenly realized you hadn’t moved the needle on any task? Or do you spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t a priority? No more. With your non-negotiables laid out, you know what to laser-focus on and what to dedicate energy towards.
Also, it pays to know your working style. I’m not a morning person. Yet, I have to be up and at ‘em super early. So, first thing in the morning, I march through my Quick Ticks to warm me up. I set a time limit, so I can knock out some easy wins which is totally inspiring. Then I move on to bigger things without lingering on emails or admin. For others, it might be more helpful to tackle the big things with all that early-in-the-day brain power earlier.
Grace has great tips on avoiding overwhelm and burnout. My favorite is taking more intentional breaks rather than scrolling through social media. I call this scrolling “productive” because I’m “coming up with pitches.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s more productive in the long run to giving my brain a break with non-screen related stimuli.
Grace’s solution? Set a timer to read a real, an actual book. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a genius way to check off some books on my TBR and kickstart my creativity. After reading a good book, I’m completely inspired to write. So having books near my desk helps me step away from the computer during my lunch break for an actual reset. (And yes, the current books I’m reading are by British authors: Assembly by Natasha Brown, and Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalolu.)
In my pursuit of switching out my WFH set-up and getting my life together, I’ve engineered my workstation for success. With my new WFH essentials and Grace’s productivity technique, I’m revitalized for work — despite the fall blues and my melancholy about the pending holidays.
Here are the things getting me hyped for work and helping me crush my Grace Beverley-inspired to-do tables — no lists in sight:
Pack your bags — Southwest Airlines is having a major sale! Fares are as low as $59 one-way if you book by October 3rd.
This end-of-summer super sale is a game-changer for your travel plans through the end of the year. Summertime travel gets all the glory. But why not take advantage of your long weekends, holidays, and PTO this fall. You’ll be surprised at how much travel you can fit in. Keep the fall/winter season exciting with domestic trips that give you all the excitement without breaking the bank. All thanks to Southwest.
Here’s the breakdown:
Where can you go?
You’ll find discounted tickets to and from most airports. Sale fares apply to cross country travel, and even Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean! Whether you’re visiting a new city or revisiting your last beach vacation, this sale has fares to make your travel dreams come true.
What do the fares cover?
Southwest Airlines has multiple fare tiers, each with various benefits. Wanna Get Away fares start at $59, while Wanna Get Away Plus fares start at $89. You can also find great deals on Anytime fares, which offer priority boarding and express lanes. Then there’s Business Select tickets for a luxe experience at an affordable price point.
Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member?
You may think these sale fares are too good to be true. Is there a catch? Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member to access them? You’re in luck — anyone can attain these fares for a limited time.
But, insider tip, you should consider signing up for Southwest Rapid Rewards. With a free sign up, you earn points and miles with each trip you take. And with this sale, each dollar you spend on these discounted tix can stretch super far until you eventually earn free travel. The only thing better than a sale is free stuff.
I’ve been browsing the Southwest Airlines site, checking out flights and dreaming.