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Pandemic Relief Measures and Your Tax Return

L Haelen 2016
Laurie Haelen, AIF®
Senior Vice President, Manager of Investment and Financial Planning Solutions
[email protected]
(585) 419-0670 x41970

Two emergency relief bills passed in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will make this an unusual tax season for many taxpayers. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed in March, and a second relief package was attached to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, in December.

The following provisions may affect many households when they file their personal tax returns for 2020. You might consult a tax professional who can explain the changes and recommend strategies to help reduce your tax liability for 2021.

Recovery Rebate Credit

Most U.S. households received two Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) from the federal government in 2020. They are not taxable because technically they are advances on a refundable credit against 2020 income taxes.

The CARES Act provided a Recovery Rebate Credit of $1,200 ($2,400 for married joint filers) plus $500 for each qualifying child under age 17. The second bill provided another $600 per eligible family member.

Any individual who has a Social Security number and is not a dependent generally qualifies for the payments, up to certain income limits. The amounts are reduced for those with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) exceeding $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers and $112,500 for heads of household) and phase out completely at AGIs of $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers and $112,500 for heads of household).

In order for the money to be delivered quickly, eligibility was based on 2019 income tax returns (or 2018 if a 2019 return had not been filed). Eligible taxpayers who did not receive two full payments, possibly due to errors or processing delays, may claim the money as a Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax return. Households that reported a lower AGI in 2020 (or added a dependent) might be eligible for additional funds. To calculate the credit, filers will need to know the amounts of any payments they already received. The credit amount will increase the refund or decrease the tax owed, dollar for dollar.

Taxpayers who received two full payments don't need to fill out any additional information on their tax returns.

Coronavirus-related distributions

Another measure in the CARES Act allowed IRA owners and employer-plan participants who were adversely affected by COVID-19 to withdraw up to $100,000 of their vested account balance in 2020 without having to pay the 10% tax penalty (25% for SIMPLE IRAs) that normally applies prior to age 59½.

Still, withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement accounts are typically taxed as ordinary income in the year of the distribution. To help manage the tax liability, qualified individuals can choose to spread the income from a coronavirusrelated distribution (CRD) equally over three years or report it in full for the 2020 tax year, with up to three years to reinvest the money in an eligible employer plan or an IRA.

Taxpayers who elect to report income over three years and then recontribute amounts greater than the amount reported in a given year may "carry forward" the excess contributions to next year's tax return. Taxpayers who recontribute amounts after paying taxes on reported CRD income can file amended returns to recoup the payments.

Qualified individuals whose plans did not adopt CRD provisions may choose to categorize other types of distributions — including those normally considered required minimum distributions — as CRDs on their tax returns (up to the $100,000 limit).

Last year was unpredictable, and your financial situation may have been far from normal. As always, CNB Wealth Management's financial planning team is here to answer any questions you may have.

CNB Can Help 

Have questions about how pandemic relief measures may affect your tax return? Contact me at (585) 419-0670, ext. 41970 or by email at [email protected].


©2021 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved. This material provided by Laurie Haelen.

This material is provided for general information purposes only. Investments and insurance products are not FDIC insured, not bank deposits, not obligations of, or guaranteed by Canandaigua National Bank & Trust or any of its affiliates. Investments are subject to investment risks, including possible loss of principal amount invested. Past performance is not indicative of future investment results. Before making any investment decision, please consult your legal, tax or financial advisor. Investments and services may be offered through affiliate companies.