Most people with gross income of $12,400 or more must file a federal tax return. Some people with a lower income are not required to file. However, these individuals should still consider filing for a refund of federal income tax withheld. They may also be eligible for certain tax credits, like the earned income tax credit, the recovery rebate credit and others.

Generally, the 2020 Federal individual income tax return was due May 17, 2021; however, if you timely filed an extension no later than May 17th, your filing deadline is now October 15, 2021 (although certain taxpayers who filed an extension and are victims of Hurricane Ida may now have until January 3, 2022).

Here are five things to consider when determining whether to file a 2020 tax return, including possibly being eligible for an Economic Impact Payment:

  1. Tax withheld or paid
  • Did your employer withhold federal income tax from your pay in 2020?
  • Did you make estimated tax payments?
  • Did you get a refund last year, and have it applied to your 2020 tax?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be owed a refund. To receive the refund, you must file a 2020 tax return.

  1. Earned income tax credit– This is a tax credit for low- to moderate-income wage earners. It is a refundable tax credit, and the amount depends on the taxpayer’s income and number of children. The credit doesn’t just reduce the amount of tax owed but could also result in a refund. However, once again, to claim the EITC, you must file a return.
  1. Child tax credit– Taxpayers can claim this credit if they have a qualifying child under the age of 17 and meet other qualifications. The maximum amount per qualifying child is $2,000. Up to $1,400 of that amount can be refundable for each qualifying child. So, like the EITC, the Child Tax Credit can give a taxpayer a refund even if they owe no tax.

Taxpayers with dependents who don’t qualify for the child tax credit may be able to claim the credit for other dependents. The maximum credit amount is $500 for each dependent who meets certain conditions.

  1. American opportunity or lifetime earning credits – Two credits can help taxpayers paying higher education costs for themselves, a spouse or dependent. Even if the taxpayer doesn’t owe any taxes, they may still qualify. You need to complete Form 8863Education Credits and file it with the tax return.

If you do not qualify for the either of these credits, you may benefit from taking the Tuition and Fees Deduction on your tax return.

  1. Economic Impact Payment– Anyone who is eligible for an Economic Impact Payment but did not get the payments or did not get the full amount, must file a tax return to claim the recovery rebate credit even if they aren’t normally required to file.  The maximum Economic Impact Payments for qualifying individuals were:
  • $1,200 per person and $500 per qualifying child for the first payment
  • $600 per person and $600 per qualifying child for the second payment

Pandemic-related tax topics

  • Unemployment benefits are taxable. Watch your mail for a Form 1099-G. In some states, taxpayers may be able to get their Form 1099-G from the website where they signed up for benefits.
  • There’s a new rule to help people who lost their job or had a change in income in 2020. Filers can use their 2019 earned income to figure their earned income tax credit, if their 2019 earned income was more than their 2020 earned income. This new rule also applies to the additional child tax credit.

An Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe The IRS

Do not think that if you owe the IRS your tax problem will disappear because of the measures being considered by the government. Instead you should be utilizing this valuable time to get yourself prepared so that when activity in this nation regains momentum, you are ready to make the best offer or proposal to take control of your outstanding tax debts.

As a prerequisite to any proposal to the IRS, you must be in current compliance. That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to IRS.

Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments. Fortunately, as we are now in 2021, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2020 should have their 2020 income tax returns done now so that the 2020 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will now start for 2021.

Remember that COVID-19 does not alter the tax laws, so all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do.

Even though the IRS may be operating slower due to COVID-19, the IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. In instances where statute expirations might be jeopardized and a taxpayer is not agreeing to extend such statute, the IRS will issue Notices of Deficiency and pursue other similar actions to protect the interests of the government in preserving such statute.

The take away from this – use the Federal government’s downtime and continued uncertainty with COVID-19 to your advantage to prepare for the future.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.