I just had a conversation with a friend whose husband was laid off during the CoVid19 epidemic. Financially, they did ok as he received the extra $600 per week under the CARES act.
My friend mentioned that her husband received $600 per week – which led me to ask her if he had chosen to have income tax withheld. Neither of them had any idea that the unemployment was taxable and that those benefits would be included in their taxable income – which would mean coming up with the extra tax before April 15, 2021. The benefits are also taxable in states that have state income tax. The following is from the IRS website (please see your state website for more info on state rates):
By law, unemployment compensation is taxable and must be reported on a 2020 federal income tax return. Taxable benefits include any of the special unemployment compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted this spring.
Withholding is voluntary. Federal law allows any recipient to choose to have a flat 10% withheld from their benefits to cover part or all of their tax liability. To do that, fill out Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request PDF, and give it to the agency paying the benefits. Don’t send it to the IRS. If the payor has its own withholding request form, use it instead.
If a recipient doesn’t choose withholding, or if withholding is not enough, they can make quarterly estimated tax payments instead. The payment for the first two quarters of 2020 was due on July 15. Third and fourth quarter payments are due on September 15, 2020, and January 15, 2021, respectively. For more information, including some helpful worksheets, see Form 1040-ES and Publication 505, available on IRS.gov.
Recipients who return to work before the end of the year can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to make sure they are having enough tax taken out of their pay. Available only on IRS.gov, this online tool can help any worker or pension recipient avoid or lessen their year-end tax bill or estimate the refund they want.
In January 2021, unemployment benefit recipients should receive a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments PDF from the agency paying the benefits. The form will show the amount of unemployment compensation they received during 2020 in Box 1, and any federal income tax withheld in Box 4. Taxpayers report this information, along with their W-2 income, on their 2020 federal tax return. For more information on unemployment, see Unemployment Benefits in Publication 525.