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Online tax accountants like TurboTax and H&R Block have not yet updated their software to account for an unemployment benefit tax break some Americans have received over the past year.
As a result, taxpayers who are eligible for the new break, who typically file a digital tax return, should wait, experts said.
Last year around 138 million individual tax returns were filed electronically – almost 98% of the total as of mid-July, according to IRS data.
$ 10,200 unemployment tax break
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed Thursday by President Joe Biden, waived federal tax on up to $ 10,200 in unemployment benefits received per person in the past year.
Taxpayers are entitled to a tax cut if their modified adjusted gross income was less than $ 150,000 in 2020.
The IRS on Friday issued guidelines for taxpayers to file a paper return with instructions on how to apply for the tax break. The agency also said it would work with firms to update the current tax software.
It seems that some are still tweaking their systems to accommodate the new rules.
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In some cases, they may not have to wait long – TurboTax expects the software to be updated by Thursday evening, according to spokeswoman Ashley McMahon.
“We’re working around the clock to update TurboTax based on the recently passed US rescue plan so our customers can file safely and receive their maximum refund,” said McMahon.
TurboTax processed nearly 40 million tax returns in the past year.
Lisa Patterson, a spokeswoman for H&R Block, said Tuesday the company is awaiting additional guidance from the IRS on implementing unemployment rules.
The Free File Alliance, a group of nine companies working with the IRS to offer a free electronic tax return, has not returned a request for comment. IRS Free File is available to taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $ 72,000 or less.
Free File Alliance companies include 1040NOW Corp., ezTaxReturn.com, FileYourTaxes, Free Tax Returns, Intuit (which TurboTax owns), OnLine Taxes, TaxACT, TaxHawk, and TaxSlayer.
The IRS has not returned a request for comment.
Wait for the file
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The $ 1.9 trillion Covid relief bill provided the mid-filing tax break for the unemployed, which began February 12 and runs through April 15. The IRS is expected to postpone the deadline to May 17th.
According to The Century Foundation, around 40 million people received unemployment benefits last year. The average person received $ 14,000 in assistance.
“It’s always a challenge in the middle of a tax season when the tax law changes,” said Nina Olson, director and founder of the Center for Tax Law. “It’s a challenge for the IRS to integrate, and it’s a challenge for the software vendor.”
As of March 5th, around 53.9 million tax returns have been filed via email this year, according to IRS data. That is almost 97% of all previous tax returns.
For those who haven’t filed an application yet and want to apply for the unemployment tax break, it is probably best if e-filers wait for online creators to adjust their systems accordingly, Olson said.
This is especially true since the IRS has already started depositing stimulus checks of $ 1,400 in bank accounts. At this point, the rush to file a tax return so that the eligibility and check amount is based on 2020 income may not come in a timely manner, Olson said. (The taxpayers eventually get the money they owe.)
“I think if you give the big software companies a week they’ll code it and it’s worth the wait to save the confusion,” said Olson.
However, some smaller software vendors might not be able to make the change this tax season, which is a problem, she added.
For example, after Hurricane Katrina, some companies on the Free File Network did not introduce new tax breaks for those affected by the natural disaster, Olson said. And those provisions were passed before the start of the tax season, not in the middle like the American bailout plan, she added.
Taxpayers who have already filed their taxes and are eligible for the unemployed tax break should not file an amended tax return, the agency said on Friday. The IRS could determine how the benefit can be delivered without such an action, experts said.