Unemployment, stimulus questions swirl amid tax season

Between stimulus checks and extended unemployment, 2020 was not a normal year for most people's income. It was certainly not a normal year for taxes either.

The pandemic changed the way most people work. While some spend a majority of their workday at a kitchen table, unless you're self-employed, you can't deduct the money spent creating a home office on your taxes. However, there are other ways to save money that are unique to 2020.

Grabbing a quick snack to get through the workday doesn't require a vending machine when working from home.

"You lay off, the lunches stop, the vending machines go dry, you can’t support all that," said Kelly Turkowitch.

Before the pandemic, Turkowitch was a senior sales executive for Davians, a food vending service. She was furloughed in late March.

"For me, the kind of sales I do, business-to-business, it just wasn’t going to work," Turkowtich said.

vending machine

She is now sorting through her 2020 takes with Hammernik & Associates in Greenfield. Filing with thousands in unemployment is unknown territory.

"Going on unemployment, this is like a new bridge to cross," said Turkowitch.

The tax rules for unemployment changed just a few weeks ago, causing some confusion.

"The tax laws have been changing by the day, by the hour, by the minute," said Nicholas Hammernik, tax advisor and vice president of Hammernik & Associates.

1040 2021 tax form, taxes

The first $10,200 of unemployment is now free of federal taxes if a person's 2020 income was less than $150,000.

"Unemployment, stimulus payments, it has added different wrinkles as far as what we’re doing as far as tax preparation goes," Hammernik said.

The change saved Turkowitch around $1,500.

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"$1,500, it could be a mortgage payment. It can put groceries on the table for a month. It can pay a medical bill," Turkowitch said. "$1,500 means a heck of a lot to me these days."

People can also use their 2020 taxes to become eligible for previous stimulus payments they may have missed. To give people time to sort through all of the changes, the federal tax deadline was extended to May 17.

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