How's Your 2020 Tax IQ?

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Pop quiz, hotshots.

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago recently published a poll consisting of just FIVE questions regarding the tax code. The questions were all TRUE-or-FALSE, and still most people could not manage better than 2 out of 5.

How do you stack up?

  1. People don’t have to pay taxes if they didn’t earn any income. True or false?
  2. If someone worked from home instead of their usual place of employment last year, they can claim their home office as a deduction on their taxes. True or false?
  3. People don’t have to pay taxes on what they received in their stimulus checks. True or false?
  4. People don’t have to pay taxes on unemployment benefits. True or false?
  5. Income earned from gig economy jobs is still taxed. True or false?

The CARES Act and the follow-up stimulus bill has inserted a significant amount of complexity into an already complicated system. We know tax-savvy isn’t the most interesting subject at a cocktail party, but we can assure you the savings from efficient planning on both the personal and business side of things more than make up for it. If you have questions or concerns about your personal or business tax strategies, please reach out to us today.

Scroll down for the answers below from;

Here are the answers to the quiz:

  1. The answer is false. The IRS will certainly tax earned income, but it says types of non-earned income are taxable. This includes child support, alimony, interest and dividends.

The fewest people got this right in the survey. 21% of people making less than $30,000 answered this correctly. Around 30% of the people in each of the other three income groups — $30,000 to $60,000, $60,000 to $100,000 and over $100,000 — answered correctly.

  1. The answer is false. The tax code does offer a tax break for work from home expenses, but the deduction does not currently apply to people who are employees. It applies to people such as self-employed taxpayers and independent contractors who, according to the IRS, have to show they are using part of their home “exclusively and regularly as a principal place of business for a trade or business.”

Correct answers ranged from roughly one quarter of participants making less than $30,000 to 41% of people making above $100,000.

  1. The answer is true. Stimulus checks, whether it’s the first, second or third round, do not count as taxable income. This is one of the many mythsthat swirled around on the economic impact payments.

In the quiz, it’s also the exception to the rule of higher-income participants having more tax savvy than lower income participants. 65% of people making more than $100,000 answered the question correctly. 76% of people making less than $30,000 answered correctly.

Wealthier survey participants might have been less likely to receive the checks, Fontes pointed out. The full checks went to individuals making up to $75,000 and married couples filing jointly that earned $150,000.

Lower-income participants might also know the stimulus check rule intricacies because “they are probably the folks who are counting every cent of those stimulus checks,” Fontes said.

  1. The answer is false. Taxpayers do have to pay taxes on the unemployment benefits they receive in a year.

The American Rescue Plan modified the federal rules on that, fueled in part by the worry of some lawmakers that many people would be blindsided by this tax rule after a year of massive job losses.

The American Rescue Plan waives federal income tax on the first $10,200 in jobless benefits a person receives and the first $20,400 in benefits a married couple receives, so long as the household makes less than $150,000. If a taxpayer already filed their return before the exclusion became law, the IRS will automatically readjust the return. State income tax rules may differ.

NORC noted it conducted the survey before the $10,200 exclusion became law.

  1. The answer is false. Yes, taxpayers do have to pay tax on their “side hustle,” and this was the question most people answered correctly. Correct answer rates ranged from 64% of people making less than $30,000 to 91% of people making more than $100,000.

A paycheck from an employer has income tax and Social Security taxes already taken out. A person who’s their own boss still has to pay taxes, but they’ve got to do it themselves. Gig workers can make those payments in four installments through the tax year.

Though May 17 is the deadline to file 2020 federal income taxes and pay any taxes owed, April 15 marks the first of four deadlines for estimated payments during the 2021 tax year.

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