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ASK THE EDD LAWYER- ARE MY UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS SUBJECT TO INCOME TAX?

By Robert S. Schriebman

We do not handle issues relating to unemployment benefits. Most of the calls we receive are not about one's eligibility for benefits. They are from desperate people who cannot make it on these benefits alone and are collecting supplemental income under the table. Inevitably, the EDD finds out about these payments from 1099s and other information that are given to the IRS.

These days it seems that the EDD is very liberal on granting benefits to an applicant. Only in clear cut cases of independent contractor status does the EDD deny UI benefits. In fact, many an EDD audit is triggered by a worker now claiming UI benefits who was treated as an IC.

We often get calls about the taxability of UI benefits. We thought it might be helpful here to present the IRS's latest position on whether or not these benefits are subject to federal income taxes. On March 4, 2014, the IRS published "IRS Tips 2014-25." Here is what the IRS had to say about the income taxation of UI benefits:

  1. You must include all unemployment compensation in your income for the year. You should receive a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments. It will show the amount paid to you and the amount of any federal income taxes withheld.
  2. There are several types of unemployment compensation. They generally include any amount received under an unemployment compensation law of the U.S. or a state. For more about the various types, see Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income.
  3. You must include benefits paid to you from regular union dues in your income. Different rules may apply if you contribute to a special union fund and those contributions are not deductible. In that case, only include as income any amount you get that is more than the contributions you made.
  4. You can choose to have federal income tax withheld from your unemployment. You make this choice using Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. If you do not choose to have tax withheld, you may have to make estimated tax payments during the year.
  5. If you are facing financial difficulties, you should visit IRS.gov. "What Ifs" for Struggling Taxpayers explains the tax effect of events such as the loss of a job. For example, if your income decreased, you may be eligible for some tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you owe federal taxes and can't pay your bill, contact the IRS as soon as possible. In many cases, the IRS can take steps to help ease your financial burden.

For more details, see IRS Publications 17, Your Federal Income Tax, or IRS Publication 525. You can download these booklets and Form W-4V at IRS.gov. You may also order them by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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An EDD lawyer, Robert Schriebman has a successful practice in the Rolling Hills Estates area of Los Angeles County serving clients throughout California and the United States.

As a trusted EDD attorney, Robert S. Schriebman has successfully dedicated more than 30 years to helping individual taxpayers, business owners, CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and tax attorneys navigate the complicated tax systems of the federal and state governments.

Robert Schriebman has written over 20 books including the major manual used nationally by practitioners and the IRS, "IRS Tax Collection Procedures - A Manual for Practitioners" published by Commerce Clearing House and the only 2 books ever published dealing with how California Employment Development Department (EDD) operates. See "California Tax Collection Practice and Procedures" and "California Taxation Practice and Procedure", both published by Commerce Clearing House.