Monday, April 18, 2022, is the deadline to file your 2021 federal tax return. But before you file, make sure you understand the tax changes that may affect you—and the amount you owe or receive as a refund. Start by answering these five questions to determine which changes might affect your tax return.
Did you receive your Child Tax Credit early?
If you qualify for the Child Tax Credit (CTC), your tax return may be a little different this year. First, the CTC increased during 2021, and second, the government paid half the credit in advance to most qualifying families.
During 2021, the CTC increased to a maximum of $3,000 for each child 17 and under, and $3,600 for each child 5 and under. Many families received CTC payments in advance over the final six months of the year. Those families can take the remaining half when they file their 2021 taxes.
If you received advance CTC payments, the IRS will send you a letter in the mail, Letter 6419. This letter should include the total dollar amount of advance payments you received and the number of children used to calculate those advance payments. You’ll need this letter to file your taxes and to make sure you receive the correct remaining amount of your CTC.
Also, understand that if you normally take the CTC when you file taxes, but you took it in cash during 2021, you may owe more in taxes than expected in April 2022.
Will you take the increased standard deduction or itemize deductions?
Every tax filer can choose to itemize deductions or take the standard deduction. When you itemize, you must include amounts for each individual deduction you’re taking, such as charitable donations, home mortgage interest and medical expenses. When you take the standard deduction, you just deduct one lump sum off your taxable income.
In 2021, the standard deduction rose to $12,550 for individual filers and $25,100 for married couples filing jointly. If you are 65 or older, you can add an extra $1,350 per person for married filers or $1,700 for single filers.
With the increased standard deduction and changes to some traditional deductions (such as a limit on the amount you can deduct for state and local taxes), it may not make sense for some taxpayers to itemize their deductions. Add up the amount you could deduct with itemized deductions and see if it’s larger than the newly increased standard deduction, or check with a tax advisor to determine whether your itemized deductions would allow you to deduct more. If not, it makes more sense to simply take the standard deduction.
Did you make donations to charity during 2021?
In the past, you had to itemize deductions in order to deduct charitable donations. However, a new IRS rule allows you to deduct up to $300 per person in charitable donations, even if you don’t itemize. If you take the standard deduction and you’re married filing jointly, you can deduct up to $600 for charitable contributions.
If you choose to itemize deductions, you can take even more. Before the pandemic, you could deduct charitable contributions in an amount equal to 60 percent of your income. In 2020, the IRS raised the limit to 100 percent, and this change was extended through 2021. So, if you earn $60,000, you’re allowed to deduct up to $60,000 in charitable deductions, if you itemize.
Did you change jobs in 2021?
During 2021, more than 38 million Americans left their jobs in the “Great Resignation.” If you were one of them, your tax bill may have changed along with your employment.
If you got a new job that pays more, you may have moved into a higher tax bracket. In that case, you may owe more than usual. Check with your new employer to make sure they are withholding the correct amount of taxes from your paycheck.
Quit your job before getting a new one? Or took a new job with a pay cut? If so, your income may have been lower in 2021, which may mean you dropped into a lower tax bracket. In that case, you may end up with a tax refund after filing.
Did you take unemployment benefits during 2021 while in between jobs? If so, you may need to report that income on your tax return. Check to see if your state requires it. Unemployment income is reported on IRS Form 1099-G.
Are you making payments on a student loan?
If you’re paying off student loans, you may be able to deduct up to $2,500 in interest on your tax return. You’re eligible for the full student loan interest deduction if your taxable income is less than $70,000 as an individual or $140,000 as a married couple filing jointly. If your income is between $70,000 and $85,000 (or between $140,000 and $170,000 for joint filers), you are eligible for a smaller deduction for student loan interest.
Also, pandemic response legislation offered new student loan deductions, which have been extended through 2025. If your employer pays some of your student loan debt, you may be eligible to exclude up to $5,250 from income.
Finally, although forgiven debt is usually treated as taxable income, new rules state that any student loan debt that was or will be forgiven between Dec. 31, 2020 and Jan. 1, 2026, will be tax-free.
As you prepare to file your taxes in 2022, the answers to these five questions can help you determine how your tax liability may have changed. And by filing an accurate return, you’ll be more likely to avoid delays in processing and potential refunds, according to the IRS.