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Norman Grill: What’s new for 2020 tax returns

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Taxpayers need to be aware of several key items involving credits, deductions and refunds when filing their tax returns.

1. Recovery rebate credit/economic impact payment. In January, the Treasury Department and the IRS began sending the second round of Economic Impact Payments to millions of Americans as part of the implementation of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. As with the first round of Economic Impact Payments, taxpayers don’t need to take any action to receive these payments.

Taxpayers who didn’t receive an advance payment should review the eligibility criteria when they file their 2020 taxes because many people, including recent college graduates, may be eligible for a credit.

Taxpayers who received an Economic Impact Payment should have received Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment, and should keep it with their 2020 tax records.

Individuals who received the full amount for both Economic Impact Payments do not need to complete information about the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR because they’ve already received the full amount of the Recovery Rebate Credit as advance payments.

Eligible individuals who did not receive an Economic Impact Payment — either the first or the second payment — can claim a Recovery Rebate Credit when filing their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR this year. They may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax year 2020 federal income tax return if:

• they didn’t receive an Economic Impact Payment, or

• their Economic Impact Payment was less than the full amount of the Economic Impact Payment for which they were eligible.

2. Option to use prior year income amounts. Also new this year is the option to use prior year income amounts (2019) when computing the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit.

3. Interest on refunds is taxable. Taxpayers who received a federal tax refund in 2020 may have been paid interest. Refund interest payments are taxable and must be reported on federal income tax returns. In January 2021, the IRS will send Form 1099-INT, Interest Income, to anyone who received interest totaling $10 or more.

4. Charitable deductions. In 2020, taxpayers who don’t itemize deductions may take a charitable deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made in 2020 to qualifying organizations. Please note that this amount applies whether filing individual or joint returns. In 2021, this amount increases to $600 for joint filers ($300 for single filers).

5. Virtual currency. If in 2020, you engaged in a transaction involving virtual currency, you will need to answer the question on page 1 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR. In 2019, this question was on Schedule 1.

6. Form 1099-NEC. Individuals may receive Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation, rather than Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, if they performed certain services for and received payments from a business in 2020.

This column is for information only and is not intended as advice for anyone. Taxes are often complicate and mistakes can be costly. For tax matters, consider retaining the assistance of a qualified professional.

Norm Grill, CPA, (N.Grill@GRILL1.com) is managing partner of Grill & Partners LLC (www.GRILL1.com), certified public accountants and consultants to closely held companies and high-net-worth individuals, with offices in Fairfield and Darien, 203-254-3880.

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