IRS to Issue Automatic Refunds for Unemployment Taxes

A woman frowns at her calculator while working to file her taxes using a laptop and paper worksheets
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Good news for early tax filers who want to claim the unemployment insurance tax break included in the American Rescue Plan—they may not have to do a thing. The IRS signaled it will send out automatic refunds.

The latest stimulus bill passed March 11, a month into tax season and after millions of Americans had already filed, and included relief for taxpayers who received unemployment compensation in 2020. If their adjusted gross income was less than $150,000, they could exclude up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation from their taxable income.

Shortly after the relief bill was passed, the IRS issued guidance and a worksheet for those who had not yet filed on how to claim the benefit, but said those who had already filed should wait and see.

Until now, the “wait and see” crowd has been on tenterhooks about whether they would have to file an amended tax return to claim the tax break, but on Thursday, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig finally shed some light on the matter. He told the House Ways and Means Committee he expects the IRS will automatically issue refunds. 

“We believe that we will be able to monitor and we will be able to announce that individuals will not have to file amended returns to take the exclusion for the $10,200 per person. We hope to be able to announce that in the near future.”

In the meantime, he emphasized that people who have yet to file a return, should file electronically and “people who [already] filed should absolutely not file an amended return.” 

People who have “other refund activity,” including any unclaimed money from stimulus checks, will receive that refund first. Then, “we’ll go back and do a recovery so that they would receive a second refund associated with the tax on the $10,200,” Rettig said.

On Wednesday, the IRS delayed the deadline for returns to May 17 from the traditional April 15 filing date. However, that extension does not apply to people making quarterly estimated payments, which are still due by April 15.