Millions of Americans Could Be in for a Tax Shock. Here’s Why

The coronavirus pandemic has caused an unemployment crisis unlike any other. While the jobless rate has declined since hitting a record high in April, millions of Americans are still out of work and have grown reliant on unemployment benefits to cover their bills. But it’s these same workers who may be in for a very unpleasant surprise when they sit down to file their 2020 taxes next year.

Don’t get caught off guard

If you’ve been collecting unemployment benefits, you may not realize that that income, like your regular paycheck, isn’t yours to keep in full. While unemployment benefits aren’t subject to the payroll taxes that are used to fund Social Security, you have to pay federal taxes on that income.

Generally, you’ll be given the option to have 10% of your weekly benefit withheld for this purpose before you start collecting that money. Otherwise, you can collect your benefits in full and then make estimated quarterly tax payments to the IRS.

But you can’t sit back and assume that you won’t face any tax liability on those benefits, because that’s just not reality. And unfortunately, a lot of people are uninformed in this regard. In a recent survey by Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, 38% of respondents said they didn’t know that unemployment benefits were taxable in the first place. Furthermore, 61% of respondents have not withheld or set aside money from their unemployment pay for their 2020 income taxes.

The result? A lot of people could be in for a serious tax bill in April, when 2020 taxes are due. As Mark Steber, Chief Tax Information Officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service explains:

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