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The Unemployment Exclusion Nightmare

Level 14

Maybe the luckiest tax preparers this year are those in Maryland, who have had to hold off on their returns reporting unemployment income because their legislature changed the law retroactively a month ago.

Now, everyone has to decide what to do with such returns. My advice: For now, do nothing. The bill has to pass the Senate, then the House. It may have to go to a conference committee. Even a Presidential signature is not guaranteed, although we did get past March 4.

It got even more complicated when the $10,200 exclusion was limited to households with less than $150K income. I don’t think Amendment 1378 has been posted anywhere yet, so we don’t know if this is the same amount for single, HoH and MFJ. Nor do we know if there is a phase-out, or an all-or-nothing bright line.

IRS will not have time to develop a new form. They will give us a worksheet. Will the computers accept zero income, with $1,000 of tax withheld on a 1099-G? They can change the program, but it might take weeks.

And then maybe the biggest issue is state conformity. The 27 states with Republican governors will probably ask, as Ohio Senator Portman did in the midnight debate, “Suddenly, if you’re on unemployment insurance you don’t have to pay taxes. But if you’re working, you do have to pay taxes. How does that work?” But California can afford it; they’re already giving away free money. And New York may welcome any distraction from its current scandals.

Where did that $10,200 amount come from, anyway? It’s the CARES Act of $600 a week for the maximum 17 weeks. And $600? That’s 40 hours at $15.

I wonder if IRS will tell us next week, “Sure, no problem, we can deal with this and still keep the deadline at April 15.”

4 Replies 4
Level 15

Good speech Bob.  Who in the world thought this was going to be a boring tax season?

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Level 15

I don't feel lucky in MD. Their retroactive law also exempted assorted state and local COVID relief grants from MD tax. They have to modify the forms to allow for this subtraction.

And a law last year provided an option for pass through entities to pay tax for their resident members/shareholders. Still waiting for revised forms for this.

Level 15

"Their retroactive law also exempted assorted state and local COVID relief grants from MD tax."

Oh, thanks for that tidbit. Now we wait to see if other States follow.

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Level 11

So here's a fun thought experiment.  A 20yo non-student who boomeranged back to Mom & Dad's house made $2K at a McJob in 2020 and $10K of unemployment.  Fails the QC test because not a student, fails the QR test but only because of gross income.  No tax because TI = $0 after taking the standard deduction.  He's never filed a return before so no EIPs, now he files a 2020 return and gets $1,800 RRC.

Yay, now $10K of unemployment is excluded from gross income, thank you Congress.  But now little Johnny only has $2K of income and qualifies as a dependent of Mom & Dad.  The law of unintended consequences says that Johnny loses his $1,800 RRC.  Hope he didn't spend it already.