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Estimate How Much You Owe the Federal Government & Need to Pay to the IRS in April, 2022

1040 Tax Estimation Calculator for 2021 Taxes

Enter your filing status, income, deductions and credits and we will estimate your total taxes. Based on your projected tax withholding for the year, we can also estimate your tax refund or amount you may owe the IRS. Please note this calculator is for the 2021 tax year which is due in April 2022. We also offer calculators for the recently passed 2017, 2018, 2019, & 2020 tax years.

Looking for Our 2020 Income Tax Estimator?

The calculator on this page is for estimating 2021 taxes due in 2022. The filing date for 2020 federal income taxes was moved from April 15, 2021 to May 17, 2021 - though 2021 estimated taxes for Q1 are still due April 15th. Click the following link to access our 2020 income tax calculator.

A Guide To The 1040 Tax Form & Frequent Tax Questions

Most individuals and businesses in the United States are obligated to pay taxes and file tax forms to the Federal government. To prove you pay your fair share, you’re required to file a tax return annually to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Filing taxes are usually done between the last week of January to April 15. The period when you can send your tax return is called the tax season.

Uncertain? Have Questions?

This site offers free calculators and guides, though the tax code is large and complex. If you have specific questions, be sure to read the associated IRS documentation and seek advice from your financial advisor or accountant.

Filing may be confusing especially with newly enacted tax provisions under the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Components such as the tax treatment of 2020 unemployment benefits and phaseout thresholds for economic impact payments were changed.

The tax-filing process is a way for the government to track how much income you’ve earned, along with how much tax you’re supposed to pay based on your income. It also monitors how much you actually paid, and if you’ve paid insufficient taxes. As people pay taxes throughout the year, many workers have tax money directly withheld from their paychecks.

If you overpaid, like most taxpayers do, the government gives it back to you as a refund. But if you underpaid, you must prioritize paying the needed amount. Tax refunds can be substantial, which can help you save and pay for important expenses. Overall, it’s crucial to file your taxes properly and take advantage of standard tax deductions.

Though millions of Americans file taxes each year, it doesn’t make the process easy. When you sit down to review your tax forms, you’re bound to get perplexed. Besides actually paying taxes, going through the trouble of arranging your tax file can be overwhelming. This is especially true if your finances are more complex, or is not as straightforward as other workers or business owners.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the most common tax form taxpayers use, which is the 1040 form. The 1040 tax form is what people use to file their personal and family tax return. It helps you compute how much you earned and guides you through income adjustments you need to make.

We’ll explain the following aspects of taxes as they relate to the 1040 form:

  • 2021 Marginal Federal Income Tax Rates
  • Required Information To Complete Taxes
  • Some Common Tax Deductions
  • Tax Deductions vs. Tax Credits
  • Federal Income Tax Changes for 2021
  • 1040 vs 1040EZ
  • How To File An Extension
  • How To Pay Backed Taxes
  • How To Get A Tax Refund
  • Popular Tax Preparation Services

2021 Filing Status and Federal Income Tax Rates

When you first start working, your employer usually asks you to fill-out a W-4 tax form. The information you write in the W-4 tax form determines how much taxes are withheld from your salary. It includes pertinent personal information, such as whether you’re single or married, if you have dependents, and how much you’re expected to earn over the year.

Your filing status is an important basis for calculating your taxable income. This is determined by your family situation and your marital status. Taxpayers may fall into five types of filing status: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and a qualified widower with a dependent child or children. If you are eligible for more than one filing status, the IRS tax filing interview selects the result with the lowest tax amount.

Tax brackets specify your required tax rate based on your income level. In the U.S., the government uses a progressive tax system where the rate increases as your income grows. As a result, people with higher incomes fall into brackets with high tax rates. Meanwhile, lower income earners fall into brackets with low tax rates.

The following table shows 2021 filing status and tax rates:

Tax RateMarried Filing Jointly or Qualified Widow(er)SingleHead of HouseholdMarried Filing Separately
10%$0 – $19,900$0 – $9,950$0 – $14,200$0 - $9,950
12%$19,901 – $81,050$9,951 – $40,525$14,201 – $54,200$9,951 – $40,525
22%$81,051 – $172,750$40,526 – $86,375$54,201 – $86,350$40,526 – $86,375
24%$172,751 – $329,850$86,376 – $164,925$86,351 – $164,900$86,376 – $164,925
32%$329,851 – $418,850$164,926 – $209,425$164,901 – $209,400$164,926 – $209,425
35%$418,851 – $628,300$209,426 – $523,600$209,401 – $523,600$209,426 – $314,150
37%Over $628,300Over $523,600Over $523,600Over $314,150

The IRS recommends updating your W-4 form every time you experience major life changes that impact your tax obligations. This includes events such as marriage, divorce, and the birth of a child. You should also update it whenever you receive unexpected sources of income.

Each year, employers send withheld taxes to the IRS. The IRS then records and monitors how much each individual, company, and organization has paid in taxes. For self-employed individuals or those who don’t have a company that withholds taxes for them, you’re still required to withhold taxes from your salary. You can do this by filing estimated tax payments. Estimated tax payments are usually paid by sole proprietors, partners, and S corporation shareholders if they expect to owe taxes worth $1,000 and above when their return is filed.

Income Taxes Vs. Payroll Taxes

The above rates are separate from Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes which fund Social Security and Medicare. Employers and workers typically pay half of the 12.4% Social Security and 1.45% Medicare benefit each, for a total of 15.3%.

Individuals who are self-employed pay self-employment taxes. This means they cover both halves of the tax.

For 2021, the FICA limit is on the first $142,800 of income. Note that this limit is adjusted annually according to changes in the average wage index.

“The OASDI [Old-age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance] for wages paid in 2021 is set by statute at 6.2 percent for employees and employers, each. Thus, an individual with wages equal to or larger than $142,800 would contribute $8,853.60 to the OASDI program in 2021, and his or her employer would contribute the same amount. The OASDI tax rate for self-employment income in 2021 is 12.4 percent… Tax rates under the [Medicare] HI program are 1.45 percent for employees and employers, each, and 2.90 percent for self-employed persons.”

 

In a tax plan outlined by President Biden before the 2020 election, he announced possible policies that would increase taxes for individuals with income over $400,000. However, this change has not been enacted. Some tax scholars also believe it is unlikely to be implemented.

In August 28, 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-65 which allowed employers to suspect withholding and paying Social Security payroll taxes. This applies to salaried employees earning below $104,00 per year through the remainder of 2020. These are not forgiven payments as originally proposed. Instead, these are deferred payments which need to be paid in half by the end of 2021, and in full by the end of 2022.

2021 Long-term Capital Gains Rates

Gains on asset sales which are held for at least a year are taxed at lower rates than ordinary income. In the U.S., purchasing property comes with certain tax advantages. When you pay interest on mortgage payments, you can claim a deduction in your tax returns.

While income from rent is not tax deductible, owning real estate in the long-term is subject to lower capital gains taxes. When you hold on to your asset longer, you give it time to increase in value and lower its tax burden. Short-term capital gains, in contrast, have higher rates than long-term capital gains which are held for a year or more.

The following table shows 2021 capital gains tax rates for different tax filing statuses:

Tax RateMarried Filing Jointly or Qualified Widow(er)SingleHead of HouseholdMarried Filing Separately
0%$0 – $80,800$0 – $40,400$0 – $54,100$0 – $40,400
15%$80,801 – $501,600$40,401 – $445,850$54,101 – $473,750$40,401 – $250,800
20%$501,601 or moreOver $445,850Over $473,750Over $250,800

There are only three brackets for long-term capitals gains tax. These are taxed at graduated thresholds set at 0%, 15%, and 20%. Most taxpayers who declare long-term capital gains are usually at the 15% threshold or below.

You earn capital gains when you sell a capital asset for more than what you paid for. Different capital assets include real estate, stocks and bonds. Taxes you pay on capital gains are determined by how long you keep the property before you sell it. Long-term capital gains are obtained from assets that are held for a year or beyond.

Required Information for Filing Taxes

Man filing tax form.

When the new year comes around, people get ready for tax filing. Between late January to early February, you will likely receive a W-2 from in the mail from your employer. Make sure to hold on to this form. The W-2 form details all the wages you earned and taxes withheld throughout the year. You’ll need this document in filing your taxes moving forward.

The W-2 form contains all the information you must include in your 1040 or 1040EZ tax form. Your tax forms come with organized boxes and instructions as you fill them out. Note that it’s your duty as a working citizen to file your tax return on time. This is mandatory even if you’re not receiving any refunds. 

Apart from the W-2 form, there are other tax forms you might need based on your job status. You’ll also need other tax forms to deduct certain types of interest payments.

1099 Forms

Individuals who are self-employed or independent contractors usually receive 1099 forms. These forms do not include withholding information because self-employed taxpayers are expected to remit their own taxes throughout the year. Banks and investment companies may also issue 1099 forms if you’ve accumulated interest on income. The following are common types of 1099 forms:

  • 1099-DIV – income from dividends
  • 1099-INT – income from interest
  • 1099-R – income from pensions or IRAs
  • SSA-1099 – income from Social Security benefits
  • 1099-MISC – income from other sources, used by self-employed individuals

1098 Forms

Individuals receive a 1098 form if they’ve made interest payments on a mortgage or a student loan. This basically reports the interest payments and expenses you can deduct. For homeowners, you’ll receive a 1098 mortgage interest statement detailing how much interest you paid throughout the year. If you’re paying for college tuition, you’ll receive a 1098-T or tuition statement form that reports the tuition you paid. Depending on the amount of interest payments for the year, you might be entitled to tax deductions or tax credit.

Next, you must gather all necessary financial information to complete your tax return:

  • Last year’s tax return. The IRS checks it to verify your identity as well as your adjusted gross income (AGI) from the previous year.
  • Any receipts, forms, or documents that serve as proof of earnings you made during the year. It includes things like rental income, profit from an installment sale, or a lottery cash prize.
  • Gather documents for taxes you’ve already paid. This includes property taxes, estimated tax payments, or state and local income taxes (SALT).
  • For those with dependents, include their date of birth and Social Security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). If you’re getting child support, provide documents of alimony payments.
  • Don’t forget your bank account number and bank routing number for direct deposit on refunds you might receive.

Under the 1040 form, you’ll need to submit additional forms called ‘schedules.’ This depends on the deductions or credits you need to claim, or any additional taxes you need to report. There are 3 main tax schedules:

3 Main Tax Schedules

  • Schedule 1: If you’re claiming student loan interest deduction, self-employment tax deduction, or additional income from unemployment compensation. You’ll also need this form if you’re filing capital gains, alimony, gambling wins, or any prize money.
  • Schedule 2: This is used to report additional taxes owed, such as alternative minimum tax (AMT), self-employment tax, or household employment taxes. Alternative minimum tax applies to individuals with high income by setting a limit on those benefits. This helps ensure that high-income taxpayers pay at least a minimum amount of tax.
  • Schedule 3: Applies if you can claim a nonrefundable tax credit besides earned income tax credit (EITC) or tax credit for other dependents. This includes educational tax credit, general business tax credit, or foreign tax credit. You can also use this schedule to declare capital gains or losses for real estate, mutual funds, and shares besides any properties you have disposed of.

Standard Deductions

While your taxes are determined by your income, you don’t pay taxes based on your total earnings. The government allows individuals to deduct a certain amount on their income which is exempted from taxes. The main deduction you make is called the standard deduction.

Standard deduction is the specific dollar amount that lowers your taxable income. The standard deduction for 2021 is $12,550 for single filers, and $25,100 for those married filing jointly. Individual taxpayers are qualified to make standard deductions based on their filing status. You also have the option to itemize deductions, but this only makes sense if your total deductions exceed the assigned threshold.

For a complete list of 2021 Federal income tax standard deductions, refer to the table below.

Filing StatusStandard Deduction
Single$12,550
Qualified Widow(er)$25,100
Married Filing Separately$12,550
Married Filing Jointly$25,100
Head of Household$18,800

Common Tax Deductions

Tax deductions are beneficial in reducing your taxed income. You can deduct money from the amount you owe or the amount you should have paid by claiming authorized deductions from your tax bill. It’s not even a secret. It’s part of the tax-filing process, and the IRS actually publishes a list of tax deductions and credits on their website.

There are certain deductions that are more common than others. The tax code is written in such a way that some deductions just apply to more individuals. Common tax deductions you should be on the lookout for are the following:

  • Home Mortgage Interest
  • Student Loan Interest Paid
  • Charitable Donations
  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Medical Or Dental Expenses
  • State and Local Taxes (SALT)

If any of the above apply, it’s easy to take some deductions from the taxes that you have to pay. With tax deductions, you want to make sure you’re maximizing how much you can get from tax cuts on your bill.

Taxpayers can itemize deductions if they’ve spent more than the standard deduction amount for the year. But for the most part, only about 10% of U.S. taxpayers can provide itemized deductions on their tax return. The following list shows different expenses that can be written as itemized deductions:

  • State and local tax (SALT) deductions: State and local tax deductions are limited to $10,000 per year.
  • Medical & dental expense deductions: For medical costs that go over 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
  • Mortgage interest deductions: Applies to interest and points you paid on your home mortgage, up to $750,000 of mortgage debt for those married and filing jointly. For home equity loans, you can only deduct mortgage interest if the loan proceeds are used to build or significantly improve the house securing the loan.
  • Charitable contribution deductions: Allows taxpayers to deduct around 60% of their AGI. Qualified charitable contributions are exempted from this limitation.
  • Casualty and theft loss: This must be caused by a federally declared disaster. If a taxpayer does not itemize it, they can still increase their standard deduction if they have a net qualified disaster loss on Form 4684. For more information how to claim this, read the IRS instructions for Form 4684.

The Difference Between Tax Deductions and Tax Credits

Tax deductions and credits both reduce your tax bill by adjusting your income. While these might seem similar, the difference is in which part of the tax filing process they are applied to.

Tax deduction reduces your taxable income, which essentially impacts the tax rate used to compute the taxes you owe. Getting a tax deduction might result in a larger refund because your tax rate is reduced. For instance, suppose you earned $50,000 in total income and you qualified for $10,000 in deductions. Your taxable income for that year will be reduced to $40,000 instead of $50,000. If your status is single during the 2021 tax year, your tax rate will be reduced from 22% to 12%.

Deductions are often categorized into two types: above-the-line deductions and below-the-line deductions. The line this refers to is your adjusted gross income (AGI). AGI is determined by taking above-the-line deductions. Once you find your AGI, you can also determine if you’re eligible for below-the-line deductions.

  • Above-the-line deductions are items you can deduct in Schedule 1. Examples of this include self-employment tax and student loan interest deductions. Above-the-line deductions can be taken by anyone who qualifies. They don’t need to be itemized in your tax return.
  • You can claim below-the-line deductions after you find above-the-line deductions. Taxpayers can first take the standard deduction, which is technically also a kind of below-the-line deduction. But more often, below-the-line deductions are regarded as itemized deductions. Finally, after taking all your deductions into account, you’ll find your taxable income for the year.

Tax credits, on the other hand, lowers how much you owe in taxes. The annual income tax charged to you is called your tax liability or tax bill. Tax credits basically reduce your tax bill, which immediately lowers the amount you need to pay in taxes. Tax credits can be better than deductions because they directly lower the amount of taxes you owe. There are two main types of tax credits: refundable and nonrefundable tax credits.

  • Refundable tax credits can lower your tax bill below $0. This means you can receive a refund even if you don’t owe any taxes for the year. For instance, your tax bill is $14,000 and you have $16,000 in refundable credits. As a result, you would receive a $2,000 refund from the IRS.
  • Nonrefundable tax credits, meanwhile, are credits that cannot be used to increase your tax refund or create a tax refund. It’s limited to your tax bill and does not bring it below $0. Even if the credits you try to claim are worth more than what you owe, your tax bill will just drop to $0 and you still won’t receive money back. For instance, you’re qualified to get a $500 child and dependent care expenses credit while you owe $200 in taxes. This means the excess $300 is nonrefundable. Thus, the credit will eliminate your $200 tax, but you will not receive a $300 tax refund.

2017 TCJA & Major Tax Changes for Homeowners

In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed by former President Trump. It changed the overall tax bracket rate while increasing the standard deduction. These reforms to itemized deductions simplified individual tax requirements for millions of households. Rather than itemizing various deductions, which increases compliance costs, many taxpayers benefited from taking the expanded standard deduction. But after December 31, 2025, if the Congress permits it, most changes to the individual tax code will revert to pre-TCJA standards.

In addition, the 2017 TCJA enacted 3 major changes which had a significant impact on homeowners:

1

Mortgage Interest Deductibility Limit: In the past, homeowners could deduct interest paid on up to $1,000,000 of mortgage debt, specifically for those who are married and filing jointly. After the TCJA, the new limit was lowered to $750,000, though homeowners who are refinancing an existing mortgage may still qualify for the old limit. For single taxpayers and those who are married and filing individually, the cap is now $375,000, which was $750,000 in pre-TCJA years.

 

2

Home Equity Interest Deductibility: In the past, second mortgage interest was deductible. After the TCJA, interest paid on HELOCs and home equity loans are no longer deductible, except for one condition. The loan proceeds must be used to build or substantially improve the homeowner’s dwelling.

 

3

SALT Limit: High-income filers who own homes in expensive coastal areas will find their state and local tax deductions have been limited significantly, to a cap of $10,000 per year.

 

Federal Income Tax Changes for 2021

As mentioned above, in 2017 President Trump pushed through tax cuts which had a significant impact on taxpayers. While taxes were reduced, Federal spending never was, so the national debt kept growing. By 2020, the COVID-19 crisis blew up the global economy and gave the United States wartime level deficits and national debts as lockdowns destroyed employment prospects and kicked in social safety net spending programs.

The World Economic Forum published a book titled COVID-19: The Great Reset.

Politicians at the highest levels rarely keep their campaign promises. Moreover, enacting many changes can require bipartisan buy in from both houses of the Congress. During his campaign for the 2020 presidential election, President Biden promised to lift the top individual rate from 37% to 39.6%, while increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. In addition to lifting the top marginal personal tax rate, President Biden mentioned plans of a 12.4% Social Security payroll tax on any income above $400,000 per year.

“The dividing line is no accident: It was intentionally set to far exceed any definition of the middle class. And it spares much of the coastal professional class that is an important part of the Democratic coalition.”

The Washington Post reported that President Biden’s tax plans would reverse part of President Trump’s steep corporate tax cut in 2017. The plan includes higher levies on investment income and a higher top marginal tax rate. These tax increases are among the most controversial factors in the administration, which has caused friction with many business groups. That, as well as the administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, which was financed by adding to federal debt.

In March 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a pandemic relief measure which rolls in substantial tax changes that affects 2021 tax returns. Here are several tax changes you should take note of when you file your tax return in 2022.

Money, calculator, calendar and tax forms.

Child Tax Credit

Under the American Rescue Plan Act, President Biden temporarily increased the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000 per qualifying child. Those with children 5 years old and below will receive a tax credit of $3,600. For tax year 2021, you can take advantage of this tax credit if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) meets the following: $75,000 for single filers, $150,000 for those married and filing jointly, and $112,500 for head of household filers. For complete details about child tax credit and credit for other dependents, visit the IRS page about Publication 972.

Charitable Deductions

A rule continues for 2021 which provides a $300 charitable deduction for taxpayers who do not itemize deductions in their tax returns. The ARPA raised the maximum amount married couples can deduct, which is now $600. Prior to 2021, the 2020 limit was only $300 per return and not per individual. Taxpayers normally deducted charitable donations when it’s included in an itemized deduction instead of a standard deduction. But due to changes in the 2017 TCJA, most taxpayers take the standard deduction.

On the other hand, taxpayers who do itemize their deductions can receive a larger benefit from charitable contributions in 2021. Under the 2017 TCJA, charitable donors who itemize their contributions are allowed to deduct cash donations of up to 60% of their income. But for noncash donations, note that the 50% threshold still applies.

The measure remains in place until 2025, after which the maximum deduction is scheduled to return to 50% of a taxpayer’s income. Thus, if you donate enough cash to charity throughout the year, it means you can possibly eliminate your entire tax bill through charitable contributions.

Medical Expense Deductions

The new law has permanently enacted a lower threshold for deducting medical costs. This means that when taxpayers deduct unreimbursed medical expenses, it can exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income (AGI), instead of the previous 10%. To claim this medical deduction, tax filers should itemize their deductions.

Prior to the TCJA, the threshold was 7.5%, which was increased to 10% in 2017. The new law basically reverts to the original rule. For example, suppose your adjusted gross income is $100,000. This means you can take medical deductions for expenses that go over $7,500. Thus, if your medical costs amounted to $11,000, you’re entitled to a medical expense deduction of $3,500.

Deductions for Business Meals

While it’s more beneficial for companies, self-employed taxpayers can take advantage of this rule when they take clients out to lunch or dinner for business meetings. Companies are allowed to deduct 100% of business meals for 2021 and 2022. The deduction applies to client meals, including employee meals on business trips.

Prior to this rule, companies could only deduct 50% of business meals in 2020. This measure aims to support restaurants that have endured restrictions and economic hardship during the COVID-19 crisis.

Tax Breaks for Educational Expenditures

For 2021, deductions for tuition fees and other educational expenses come with increased income limits under the lifetime learning credit (LLC). Qualified tax filers can claim a lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 per tax return. This is calculated as 20% of the first $10,000 of qualified expenses. Rather than phasing out income levels that start at $59,000 for single filers and $119,00 for married joint filers, the phaseout starts at $80,000 for single taxpayers and $160,000 for married joint filers.

LLC is a nonrefundable credit based on your AGI and filing status. It aims to help eligible students pay for education in various levels, including undergraduate, graduate, professional degree courses, and educational programs for improving job skills. It has no limit for the number of years you can claim the credit as long as you’re a student.

For 2021, refer to the following lifetime learning credit income limits:

Filing StatusMax. Income for Full CreditMax. Income for Partial Credit
Single$59,000$69,000
Qualified Widow(er)$59,000$139,000
Married Filing Separately$59,000$69,000
Married Filing Jointly$119,000$139,000
Head of Household$59,000$69,000

With the 2021 ARPA, take note of the following tax updates for employment:

  • Refundable Tax Credits until September 30, 2021 – Applies to workers whose employers choose to voluntarily apply the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which allows paid emergency leave and medical leave. Qualifying taxpayers may receive refundable tax credits through September 30, 2021.
  • Additional Reasons Covered for Providing Paid Sick Leave – The rule adds 3 more reasons that allows employers to give paid sick leave under the FFCRA. This includes 1) obtaining COVID-19 immunization, 2) recovering from an illness, injury, disability, or any condition related to immunization, and 3) seeking or waiting for a COVID-19 test or diagnosis when a worker has been exposed to COVID-19, or when the employer requests the test or checkup. The FFCRA originally only allowed 6 qualifying reasons for a leave.
  • Additional Reasons Covered for Providing Paid Family Leave – Earlier, tax credits were only granted to employers to provide paid family leave if workers were unable to work or telework, take care of a child whose school or daycare was closed, or is rendered unavailable because of a public health emergency. Under the new law, employers can claim tax credits to provide family leave under qualifying reasons according to the FFCRA, and the additional three reasons under the ARPA as mentioned above.
  • Duration of Paid Sick & Family Leave for Tax Credits – Under the ARPA, employers are allowed to receive tax credit for providing up to 10 days of paid sick leave starting April 1, 2021. This applies even if the employer has took a credit earlier for giving a paid sick leave to an employee due to a covered reason before April 1, 2021. Employers can also obtain a tax credit for granting up to 12 weeks of paid family leave.
  • Tax Credit Amounts Available for Paid Sick Leave – Employers that provide a voluntary paid sick leave receive a tax credit with a cap of $511 a day. This is based on the worker’s regular pay rate if they are on leave due to coronavirus quarantine, is in self-quarantine, or has symptoms. Again, ARPA now includes the additional 3 covered reasons for obtaining tax credits at the employee’s regular pay rate. Any other paid sick leave comes with a tax credit that is two-thirds the employee’s regular pay rate, which is capped at $200 a day.
  • Tax Credit Amounts Available for Paid Family Leave – Employers that provide a paid family leave receive a tax credit which is capped at $200 a day. This is two-thirds of the worker’s regular pay rate for leave, which must be due to any covered reasons. The rule also eliminates the 2-week waiting period (where the leave is unpaid for the time being) for taking the emergency family leave. Moreover, the cap for aggregated paid leave is raised from $10,000 to $12,000. This means employers can take an extra $2,000 of tax credits per worker for providing a qualified leave.

2021 Unemployment Insurance

In 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act established three primary unemployment insurance programs. This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). A fourth program called the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) was created under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Under the ARPA, there are significant changes for these programs in 2021:

  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – Under the PEUC, individuals who have used up their state law unemployment benefits can receive additional assistance. In 2020 under the CARES Act, the program offered qualified individuals with up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits until December 31, 2020. The Consolidated Appropriations Act prolonged the program’s benefits up to 24 weeks until March 14, 2021. The ARPA extends the PEUC’s unemployment benefits up to 53 weeks until September 6, 2021.
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – In 2020, the FPUC program provided $600 per week, which was a supplement to benefits granted by the government. It was originally set to end in July 31, 2020, but was later prolonged by the Consolidated Appropriations Act until March 14, 2021, but at a lower benefit of $300 per week. The ARPA extends the $300 weekly supplemental benefit until September 6, 2021.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – The PUA program provides support for individuals who do not qualify for regular or unemployment insurance, such as self-employed individuals, business owners, independent contractors, those without adequate work history, and individuals not covered by regular unemployment compensation under state laws. In 2020, the PUA program provided 39 weeks of unemployment benefits until December 31, 2020. The Consolidated Appropriations Act extended it to grant up to 50 weeks till March 14, 2021. With the passage of the ARPA, unemployment benefits were prolonged for 79 weeks until September 6, 2021. Individuals residing in states with high levels of unemployment receive up to 86 weeks of unemployment benefits.
  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) – Gig economy workers and freelancers are provided financial assistance under the MEUC. Qualifying individuals received at least $5,000 in self-employment income, so long as they did not receive aid from the PUA program. Qualified individuals can also receive an additional $100 in supplemental unemployment benefits. The MEUC was extended under the ARPA until September 6, 2021.

1040 Vs. 1040EZ

Comparing the 1040 Form with the 1040EZ

Before the redesigned 1040 form was implemented in 2018, the 1040EZ form was designed for filers with more basic, uncomplicated tax situations. The 1040EZ form lived up to its easy name because it was a shorter and much simpler version of the 1040 form.

But after the 2017 TCJA, a new 1040 consolidated the 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms into a single 1040 form. This is the tax form everyone must use now to file their tax return. However, if you have back taxes from 2017 and earlier, you may still use the 1040EZ form by getting in touch with the IRS.

Picture of 1040 form.

How to File an Extension

There are various reasons why people might need to file for extension on taxes. You might do so because you’ll be out of the country when taxes are due. Perhaps you have a complex business partnership, or your partner suddenly fell ill right in time for tax season. In some cases, you might be serving in the military and won’t be back from a combat zone for a while. If you cannot file or pay your taxes when they are due, you should request the IRS for a later due date.

It is up to the discretion of the IRS if they grant extensions on tax payments. The IRS usually will agree to the extension, as long as the taxpayer has a good reason to ask for one. In this respect, those who feel they need a little more time should file the extension using form 4868. It is certainly a much better option than not filing the taxes or not paying at all.

How to Pay Taxes Owed from Prior Years

Catching Up on Back Taxes

Unpaid taxes are a very serious issue. If you failed to file your taxes properly or pay the right amount, expect the IRS to know. They will come after you for unpaid taxes—with additional fines, fees, and interest. Don’t be shocked to receive mail stating the amount they claim you owe versus the amount you actually paid.

In extreme cases, the IRS had people living overseas such as John McAfee jailed awaiting extradition.

If the IRS claims you underpaid your taxes, you can challenge their claims. There are courts that allow you to question the taxes they say you owe. That being said, if you think the IRS is in fact correct in their estimations, you should certainly prioritize making the payment.

Unpaid taxes from previous years may include penalties. This can accrue daily compound interest until the matter is settled.

A lot of people who receive an IRS bill for unpaid taxes cannot afford to pay in full. These people usually face financial hardships, and would have paid it if they had enough money. With this situation in mind, the IRS allows taxpayers to make a partial payment or a payment plan. Individual taxpayers can use form 9465 to take care of a partial payment setup they made with the IRS. Make sure to diligently make your payments as agreed to remain on the good side of the IRS.

How to Get a Refund

Though doing taxes may be stressful, receiving a tax refund is a great advantage. To obtain your tax refund, it all starts with going back to your employer. As previously mentioned, the information in your W-4 tax form will determine your current tax status. If you’re not aware of this, you should talk to your employer about how your tax filing status is currently set up.

Most employees put either zero dependents or one dependent when they file their tax status. Between the two, the difference in how much taxes are taken out is pretty big. Any person is allowed to claim one dependent. They can get even more dependents on their tax filing if they are married or have children.

The more dependents a person has, the less will be taken out their paychecks for taxes on a weekly basis. On the other hand, if they claim fewer dependents, more taxes will be taken from their salary. But even with overpayments, the money comes back to the taxpayer as a refund.

It all depends on whether you would like to receive that money on your weekly paycheck, or if you’re okay receiving it as a lump sum refund during tax season. Some people prefer to receive it as a large amount so they can save, use the money to pay off debts and important expenses, or fund vacations.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Tax Refund?

A refund is issued typically within six to eight weeks of filing an accurate and complete paper tax return. If you file your income tax return electronically (e-file), you should receive your refund in less than three weeks. It can even be faster if you opt for a direct deposit. This is counted from the date the IRS receives your tax return.

Depending on how you file your tax return and how you’ll receive your refund, the following table shows an estimated tax refund schedule:

Filing MethodHow You’ll Receive the RefundWhen to Expect the Refund
e-fileDirect deposit1-3 weeks from filing date
e-filePaper check in the mail3 weeks or longer from filing date
Mailed paper tax returnDirect deposit1 month or longer from when IRS receives your tax return
Mailed paper tax returnPaper check in the mail2 months or longer from when IRS received your tax return

Man getting tax refund.

Popular Tax Preparation Services

Tax preparation is a booming industry. As you’ve observed, tax forms put out by the government are complicated. It is often easier for some people to get assistance from a tax professional who can help file their taxes more efficiently. If you don’t want to go to a professional to do it, you can at least use tax preparation software that helps cut down on some of the workload.

Tax professionals are available at outlets such as H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, Liberty Tax, and many others. Some of those places are open all year long to assist you with your tax concerns, even when it’s not tax season. You can call or schedule an appointment whenever it’s most convenient.

Common Tax Software Programs

Some popular tax software products are TurboTax, TaxAct, and H&R Block At Home. These are all great software programs that can walk you through the process to ensure your taxes are paid. Using these products will still require some of your time and attention, since you need to fill in all the necessary tax information into the computer program.

That being said, it is still a lot quicker than filing taxes traditionally with pencil and paper. Software programs prepare and electronically file tax returns from any computer or mobile device with internet access. The old method would still require you to mail your tax return, which adds more time to the process.

In Conclusion

It is our sole duty as citizens to pay federal income taxes each year. To ensure we pay our fair share, the IRS requires us to file an annual tax return. This details how much income we’ve earned in a year, how much tax we’re supposed to pay, along with how much we actually paid. Take note of tax credits and deductions for 2021, as you might be eligible for certain tax benefits under employment, medical, or child care benefits according to the American Rescue Plan Act.

When you fill out tax paperwork with your employer, it determines your tax filing status. You also have the option to include a dependent, especially if you have a child. You can either be single, married filing separately, married filing jointly, the head of a household, or a qualified widow(er). Your tax filing status, along with your assigned tax rate, will determine the amount of tax you need to pay.

Individual taxpayers are all allowed by the government to make certain deductions on their income. The primary deduction you make is called the standard deduction. This amount is based on your tax filing status, which is adjusted annually to account for inflation. Itemized deductions make the most sense if your total deduction surpasses the standard deduction amount. That said, it’s important to maximize the deductions you need to make the most out of your tax refund. You may also qualify for certain tax credits based on your income and filing status.

A tax deduction essentially lowers your taxable income. A lower income means you can receive a lower tax rate on your tax filing period. As a result, this increases your tax refund, which you can save or use for more important expenses. Taxes are normally filed every year from January until the 15th of April. In certain cases, you may have valid reasons for not submitting on time. When this happens, you can ask the IRS for an extension to file your taxes.

Remember, always seek professional tax advice if there is something you do not understand. The tax code is very difficult to comprehend at times, and asking for help is crucial. Doing research and getting assistance is a much better option than guessing or doing nothing at all to get your taxes in order.

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  • Lower Interest Expenses: Pay off higher interest rate credit cards & pay for college tuition.
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  • Flexible Terms: Borrow from 8 to 30 years.