Unemployed at Tax Time? Save Money With These Tips


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — About 3.6 million Americans have been unemployed for more than six months, and that's 3.6 million taxpayers who could really use a break before April 15.

Fortunately, there are some moves the unemployed can make to reduce their taxable burden and leave more cash in their own pockets.

The Illinois CPA Society has released a list of things worth knowing by Americans who are out of work and busy looking for a job:

Unemployment income is taxable. Unemployment benefits are taxable on the federal and state level. If you haven't already, get your state and federal taxes withheld from your unemployment wages. That basically stops you from spending cash that needs to be set aside for tax payment purposes.

You should always file a tax return. Just because you're out of work doesn't mean you should ignore your taxes. Any income received during the previous year — even vacation or sick pay accumulated in your old job — is considered taxable income and could get you in hot water with the IRS if not included in tax payments. Plus, there is an upside. "If you worked for part of the year and had taxes withheld or paid estimated taxes while employed, you may get a refund due to your subsequent drop in income," The ICPAS says.

You should take your tax credits. With joblessness comes a lower income level, and that may qualify you for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Credit (among others).

You should save your receipts. If you drive or fly to a job interview, pay for a resume service or pay to join a trade association in your industry, those are all tax deductible in the eyes of the federal government. Make sure to save all your receipts and record them on your tax returns.

Take those back-to-school deductions. Any education or training costs designed to boost your career opportunities are also tax deductible through a variety of educational tax credits.

Also, you can deduct many expenses of starting a business, including health care costs, home office and business equipment expenses and mileage costs associated with business travel.

Check with a certified public accountant for help on all of the above deductions, and ask about any available credits and deductions linked to unemployment. That will give you more cash come tax time and one less thing to worry about while you look for a job.

— By Brian O'Connell

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