Taxes are a confusing topic in any year, but collecting unemployment ads an entirely new layer.

"Taxes Key" by Got Credit is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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 to apply for a payment plan as well as temporarily 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.

PayPath
Follow Us on

Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.