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IRS to Automatically Adjust Prior Filed 2020 Returns with Unemployment Income

Article Highlights

  • Prior Filed Returns with Unemployment Income

  • American Rescue Plan’s $10,200 Exclusion

  • IRS Automatic Adjustment

  • Refund Application

  • When an Amended Return Might Be Required

The IRS announced on March 31, that it will take steps to automatically refund money this spring and summer to people who filed their tax return reporting unemployment compensation before the recent law change made by the American Rescue Plan Act.


The American Rescue Plan Act, signed on March 11, allows each taxpayer who earned less than $150,000 in modified adjusted gross income to exclude up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation from taxation. Since it applies to each taxpayer, married couples where both spouses received unemployment benefits may be able to exclude up to $20,400 if married filing status. The legislation excludes only 2020 unemployment benefits from taxes.


Because the change occurred after some people filed their taxes, the IRS will take steps in the spring and summer to make the appropriate change to the returns of these individuals, which may result in a refund. The first refunds are expected to be made in May and will continue into the summer.


For those taxpayers who already have filed and figured their tax based on the full amount of unemployment compensation, the IRS will determine the correct taxable amount of unemployment compensation and tax. Any resulting overpayment of tax will be either refunded or applied to other outstanding taxes owed.


For those who have already filed, the IRS will do these recalculations in two phases, starting with those taxpayers eligible for the up to $10,200 exclusion. The IRS will then adjust returns for those married filing jointly taxpayers who are eligible for the up to $20,400 exclusion and others with more complex returns.


There is no need for taxpayers to file an amended return unless the calculations make the taxpayer newly eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on the original tax return.


For example, the IRS can adjust returns for those taxpayers who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and, because the exclusion changed the income level, may now be eligible for an increase in the EITC amount which may result in a larger refund. However, taxpayers would have to file an amended return if they did not originally claim the EITC or other credits but now are eligible because the exclusion changed their income.


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