The worst of the coronavirus recession may still be ahead, particularly if you're on unemployment. Way back in March, the feds pushed back tax deadlines and expanded unemployment benefits to provide financial relief for those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting lockdowns. But those relief actions now have some looming deadlines with serious financial implications. Don't get caught off-guard; here's what you need to know.
July 15: Quarterly tax payments are due
If you didn't elect to have taxes withheld from your unemployment checks, you may owe a quarterly tax payment to the IRS and to your state. Your federal payment, due on July 15, should account for all untaxed income you earned between January 1 and May 31 of this year.
Squaring up with your state on income taxes may be trickier, however. The IRS pushed the tax payment deadline to July 15 when it rescheduled Tax Day, but not all states followed suit. In New Hampshire, for example, quarterly payments for income earned January 1 through May 31 are due on June 15. But in Oklahoma, the tax payment deadline for income earned in the first quarter is July 15, while the payment for income earned in the second quarter is due one month prior, on June 15. That means you might already be past-due on your state payments.
As a next step, visit your state government website and locate the tax commission or department of revenue section. You're looking for 2020 estimated tax payment due dates and your state's 2020 estimated tax worksheet. The worksheet will help you calculate the amount of your state tax payment. Then, see the IRS's 2020 estimated tax worksheet to determine what you owe the feds.
If you don't make your tax payments during this calendar year, you can catch up when you file your 2020 tax return. You will likely owe penalties and interest on the unpaid amounts, however.
July 26: $600 supplement runs out
Your unemployment check includes a $600 weekly supplement, a benefit expansion provided by the CARES Act. It's been widely promoted that this extra payment would continue through July 31. Unfortunately, the Department of Labor recently clarified that the $600 weekly supplement actually ends the full week prior to July 31. The exact end date is July 26 in New York and July 25 in all other states.
That doesn't leave much time to sort out how you'll manage on a substantially smaller income. You might start by reviewing your budget and estimating your income shortfall. Then, contact creditors and ask for debt relief. If you rent, check in with your landlord to see if you'll have any leeway on making your rent payment in the coming months. If the answer's a firm no, you may have to resort to more drastic measures, like moving in with relatives temporarily.
December 25: Benefits for gig workers end
Before the coronavirus appeared in the U.S., gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors weren't eligible for unemployment benefits at all. The CARES Act changed that with the creation of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, also known as PUA. PUA opened up unemployment eligibility to include self-employed workers whose income has been impacted by the pandemic.
If you're receiving benefits under PUA, know that this program, and your benefits, will end the week of December 25.
Ideally, demand for your line of work will pick up before year's end, and you can make a smooth transition off unemployment. But in case that doesn't happen, start brainstorming other ways to put your skills to work. Or, use this time to expand your skillset into an area that supports remote work. If you have a reliable internet connection, look into free and low-cost online training programs at sites like Coursera or Codecademy.
It might be worse before it's better
Making ends meet on unemployment is challenging enough. Throw in an income tax bill, plus an impending end to some or all of your benefits, and the situation is downright overwhelming. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the feds are planning another tax delay or an extension of the CARES Act benefits. All you can do is get the important dates on your calendar and start your contingency planning now.