Stimulus Update: Are You About to File Your Taxes? Here’s How the Covid-19 Stimulus Can Affect Your Debt


Millions of Americans will be affected by the coronavirus epidemic when they file their taxes in 2022.

To help hard-hit Americans get through the crisis, the federal government approved stimulus checks, increased unemployment benefits, federal student loan forbearance, and advance child tax credit payments in 2021 — and that direct aid will have major implications during the 2022 tax season, potentially affecting the size of your refund.

Meanwhile, Americans who took hardship distributions from their retirement funds in 2020 are approaching the deadline for repaying the money without having to pay income taxes on the money they took out.

“There is no doubt that your 2021 tax return will be the most convoluted tax return filed in decades, if not since the tax code’s establishment in 1913,” says Mark Steber, Jackson Hewitt’s chief tax officer.

Here are the six most important things to know about COVID-19 relief measures and how they may affect your taxes.

1. Checks for Coronavirus stimulus

Individuals in the United States were eligible for a third stimulus payment for up to $1,400 in 2021, the pandemic’s third and highest Economic Impact Payment (EIP).

The 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit can be claimed on Line 30 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR” for seniors by taxpayers who did not get all or part of the third stimulus payment.

Taxpayers who claimed the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit to reconcile the first and second stimulus cheques worth up to $1,200 and $600, respectively, may be familiar with the process from last year.

To begin, figure out how much stimulus money you’ve already received. To assist you in keeping track, the IRS should have mailed you Letter 6475.

Compare that figure to the figures you came up with while determining your eligibility. Single filers may get the full $1,400 credit if their adjusted gross income (AGI) didn’t exceed $75,000, married filers couldn’t make more than $150,000, and heads of households couldn’t make more than $112,500. Payments were tapered off at a rate of $28 every $100 above the income criteria. Dependents were also eligible for a $1,400 payout, however, they won’t get partial credit if their income exceeds the eligibility limit.

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Stimulus Update: Are You About to File Your Taxes? Here’s How the Covid-19 Stimulus Can Affect Your Debt

If the numbers don’t add up, your income or personal circumstances may have changed since you last paid your taxes. Those who did not receive the entire amount in 2021 may have had a baby or adopted a child, or their income may have been disturbed. If you received more than you were entitled to, it’s possible that one of your dependents has passed away or that your income has increased.

Taxpayers will not be required to repay any additional stimulus funds, but they will be required to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit to obtain any unclaimed funds.

2. Tax credit for children (CTC)

From 2021, U.S. families with dependent children were eligible for a significantly increased child tax credit (CTC) worth up to $3,600 for each child aged 5 and under and $3,000 for those aged 6 to 17. Originally, all dependents under the age of 17 were eligible for a $2,000 credit.

Half of the money was already delivered to you in the form of six advance monthly payments from July to December 2021, unless you opted out. On your 2021 tax return, you can expect a child tax credit of up to $1,800 or $1,500, which is slightly less than the original amount.

Families in the lowest tax band, on the other hand, may get higher credit than they’re used to because the credit was made completely refundable for 2021, which means that everyone gets the full amount, regardless of how much money they made during the tax year.

Families who had a baby, adopted a child, or whose salaries fell in 2021 will be able to reclaim any missed child tax credit money if they didn’t already disclose those changes to the IRS, similar to stimulus payouts.

To qualify for the original $2,000 credit, married couples filing jointly must have an AGI of less than $400,000, and single filers and heads of household must have an AGI of less than $200,000.

Single filers must earn less than $75,000, heads of households must earn less than $112,500, and married couples must earn less than $150,000 to be eligible for the additional $1,000 or $1,600. After that, for every $1,000 over the income threshold, the credit is reduced by $50.

The IRS based its eligibility on the most current tax season’s filings, which were filed in 2020. Unlike stimulus cheques, any extra child tax credit money will be required to be paid back to the IRS, so you’ll want to pay special attention if you have fewer dependents or more income in 2021 than you did in 2020. The agency will most likely reconcile that amount by deducting it from your tax refund.

3. Unemployment benefits (UI)

In 2021, state unemployment offices received a staggering 24.6 million new unemployment insurance (UI) claims. Up until September, those offices were also paying out an extra $300 each week by President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

For 2021, the full amount you got is taxable income, unlike the previous year, when the Democrats’ relief package exempted the first $10,400 of such payments. That implies any benefits you received the previous year are fully taxable.

The majority of the time, Americans automatically deduct taxes from their paychecks. However, if you withheld too little, you may be hit with a tax bill when you file your return.

4. Forbearance of federal student loans

The federal student loan program was in forbearance for the entire year of 2021, putting interest and payments on hold. For many borrowers who lost their jobs or income as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, this was a great way to save money.

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Stimulus Update: Are You About to File Your Taxes? Here’s How the Covid-19 Stimulus Can Affect Your Debt

But, come tax season, it all comes full circle. Federal student loan borrowers can deduct up to $2,500 from their top-line income for every dollar they pay in interest, a threshold that’s usually simple to reach in a regular year of payments. Even if you made at least some payments toward your federal student loans in 2021, individuals should expect a smaller deduction than usual because interest collection has been halted by the government.

Making payments, however, gives a significant financial benefit in the long run, according to financial experts: your contributions will go toward your principal debt, reducing your balance faster.

However, because the federal student loan forbearance program does not apply to you, if you have a private student loan, you can likely claim the full credit.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax credit that is given to (EITC)

The American Rescue Plan for 2021 increased the maximum amount that taxpayers can receive while also expanding the income eligibility limits for the popular Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The most generous new rules apply to workers without children, who can now receive a tax credit that is roughly three times larger than in prior years. According to the IRS, your dependant must be 18 or under at the end of the tax year or under 24 if they are a full-time student to be eligible for the EITC.

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Earned income, whether from wages, salary, gig work, or self-employment, is required to claim the credit. To get the whole amount, your AGI must be below the eligibility criteria for the current, prior, and forthcoming tax years. However, beginning in 2021, the IRS will allow people to claim the credit based on their 2019 income if it was higher than their 2021 earnings. According to the IRS, this alternative may result in a bigger credit in some cases.

Taxpayers can now qualify for the zero-children form of credit if their child does not have a social security number (SSN).

6. Penalty-free hardship distributions backed by the CARES Act

Through a Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES)-backed “hardship distribution,” individuals in 2020 could withdraw up to $100,000 — or 100 percent of their vested account balance if it’s less than that — from their retirement accounts without incurring the typical 10% early withdrawal penalty.

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Individuals were still required to pay income taxes on the money, albeit they might do so over three years. Taxpayers can also repay the entire amount they withdrew, after which they’ll need to amend their previous tax returns and the IRS will issue them an income tax refund. If taxpayers take care of it now, they won’t have to declare that distribution as income on their 2022 tax return.

According to experts, now is the time to start planning your strategy.

“If you don’t handle it appropriately, it can strap you,” explains Jackson Hewitt’s Steber. “That borrowing provision for 2020 has consequences – you must repay that money.” If you don’t do what you need to do, the IRS will eventually find out.”

When taxpayers make changes to their returns, they are added to the IRS’s massive paper backlog, which already numbers in the millions and might cause delays. However, it’s a strategy worth exploring, especially since time in the market matters when it comes to investing for important life events like retirement. The longer you save for retirement, the more time your money has to compound.

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Stimulus Update: Are You About to File Your Taxes? Here’s How the Covid-19 Stimulus Can Affect Your Debt

If you choose to pay income taxes on the amount instead, the procedure is dependent on how much you’ve previously paid. Some taxpayers in the United States may have elected to include the entire dividend in their income in 2020. Another popular strategy is to divide your distribution into three parts and report each one separately on your tax return for 2020, 2021, and 2022.

In conclusion

Given the complexity of this year’s tax season, tax professionals and the Internal Revenue Service emphasize the need of filing early — and carefully. If you make a mistake or file your return erroneously, it may be subjected to more scrutiny, resulting in processing delays and a lengthier wait for your refund.

If they choose direct deposit, taxpayers who file their tax returns electronically and without errors can get a refund within 21 days of filing.

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“Those who received an Economic Impact Payment or an advance Child Tax Credit last year should pay special attention.” To avoid delays, taxpayers should make sure they record the exact amount on their tax return, according to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “While the pandemic continues to pose obstacles, the IRS reminds taxpayers that there are steps they can take to help guarantee their tax return and refund are processed as quickly as possible.”

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