About Your 2020 Taxes

IRS E-file Start Date:

IRS announced 01/15/2021, that e-file will start on February 12, 2021 to accept 2020 tax returns. The start of the season has been delayed due to the tax law changes of December 27, 2020. SOLVED Tax & Accounting is able to start processing your returns but they will not be able to be transmitted to IRS until February 12, 2021.

EIC and ACTC Delays:

Returns with EIC and ACTC will not be funded until the first week of March, 2021 according to the Path Act.

Stimulus Payments:

Your $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) stimulus payment, officially known as a Recovery Rebate, is an advance refundable tax credit on 2020 taxes. This means no matter how much you owe or don't owe in taxes for the 2020 tax year, you get to keep all the money with no taxes due on the amount received.

The rebate phases out at an adjusted gross income (AGI) $75,000 to $99,000 for singles, or $150,000 to $198,000 for joint taxpayers, at a rate of 5% per dollar. Since the stimulus payment will either be based on your AGI for 2018 or 2019, but technically applies to your 2020 AGI, there may be some discrepancy. Don't worry. The news there is good as well.

If it turns out your AGI for 2018 or 2019, whichever one the IRS bases your stimulus payment on, is lower than 2020, resulting in a higher payment, you can keep the overage. If your AGI for 2018 or 2019 is higher than your AGI in 2020, you can claim the additional amount owed when you file your 2020 taxes in 2021.

This applies to dependents under 17 as well. If someone else claims a child now, based on 2018 or 2019 returns, but you legitimately claim that child on your 2020 return, you will get a $500 tax credit when you file in 2021 and the person who got it based on 2018 and 2019 returns will not have to pay it back.

If you have a child in 2020 you can claim the child when you file in 2021 and receive the $500 credit for the 2020 tax filing.

Your recovery rebate is not taxable. It will not add to your taxable income in 2020 or any other year. All of this is based on the fact that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security CARES) contains no claw back mechanism by which the government can reclaim funds that were legitimately extended.

Brackets and Rates:

For tax years 2020 and 2021, the top tax rate remains 37%. This rate is in effect for individual taxpayers filing as single with income greater than $518,400 in 2020 and $523,600 in 2021. The income threshold for this rate will be $622,050 for married couples filing jointly (MFJ) and $311,025 for married individuals filing separately (MFS) in 2020, the thresholds are $628,300 and $314,150 for MFJ and MFS, respectively in 2021.

Income ranges of other rates up to the next-highest threshold are as follows:

The lowest rate is 10% for single individuals and married couples filing separately, whose income is $9,875 or less in 2020, $9,950 or less in 2021. For married individuals filing jointly, the combined income may not exceed $19,750 in 2020, $19,900 or less in 2021. For those filing as head of household (HOH), the income thresholds are the same as for singles in the 37%, 35%, and 32% brackets in 2020. In 2021, only the 37% threshold is the same for both singles and HOH, while the lower brackets are very slightly different. In other HOH brackets, the income thresholds for 2020 are $85,501 to $163,300 in the 24% bracket, $53,701 to $85,500 in the 22% bracket, $14,101 to $53,700 in the 12% bracket, and up to $14,100 in the 10% bracket.

The HOH income thresholds for 2021 are $209,401 to $523,600 in the 35% bracket, $164,901 to $209,400 in the 32% bracket, $86,351 to $164,900 in the 24% bracket, $54,201 to $86,350 in the 22% bracket, $14,201 to $54,200 in the 12% bracket, and up to $14,200 in the 10% bracket.

Capital Gains:

In 2021, the levels will be:


The standard deduction for married filing jointly rises to $24,800 for tax year 2020, $25,100 in 2021. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $12,400 for 2020, $12,550 in 2021. For heads of households, the standard deduction will be $18,650 for tax year 2020, $18,800 in 2021.

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption amount for single filers for tax year 2020 is $72,900 and begins phasing out at $518,400, in 2021, it is $73,600 phasing out at $523,600. For married couples filing jointly, the AMT exemption amount is $113,400, which begins phasing out at $1,036,800, in 2021, it is $114,600 phasing out at $1,047,200.

The CARES Act allows a $300 "above-the-line" deduction for cash contributions to charity if you take the standard deduction when you file your 2020 taxes. Additionally, for those who itemize, the law lifts the 60% of adjusted gross income (AGI) limitation on cash contributions. Individuals can elect to deduct donations up to 100% of their 2020 AGI. Donations to donor-advised funds and supporting organizations do not qualify. Retirement Plans:

The contribution limit for employees who participate in employer retirement plans such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) has been increased to $19,500 for 2020 and 2021, up from $19,000 in 2019. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and older increased to $6,500 for 2020 and 2021, up from $6,000 in 2019. The contribution limit for SIMPLE retirement accounts has been raised to $13,500 for 2020 and 2021, up from $13,000 for 2019. Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions.

During the year, if either the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced or phased out. If neither the taxpayer nor their spouse is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the phase-outs of the deduction do not apply. Phase-out ranges for 2020 are as follows:

Roth IRA contributions are not deductible. There are income limitations on the amount you can contribute to a Roth IRA. The income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $124,000 to $139,000 for singles and heads of household in 2020, $125,000 to $140,000 in 2021. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $196,000 to $206,000 in 2020, $198,000 to $2018,000 in 2021. The income limit for the saver’s credit (also referred to as the retirement savings contributions credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $65,000 for married couples filing jointly in 2020, $66,000 in 2021, $48,750 for heads of household in 2020, $49,500 in 2021, and $32,500 for singles and married individuals filing separately in 2020, $33,000 in 2021.

Retirement Fund Withdrawals and Loans:

If you qualify for a coronavirus-related distribution (CRD) from your qualified retirement fund in 2020, it will not be subject to a 10% early-withdrawal penalty. The distribution will be taxable but taxes can be spread over three years instead of being due entirely in the year of the withdrawal. If you pay the funds back to the plan within three years, it will be considered a rollover and non-taxable.

New rules also allowed you to take out a loan of up to $100,000 or the amount in your employer-sponsored retirement plan (whichever is smaller). Additionally, if you already have an outstanding loan, you can delay payments on the loan for up to one year, interest will accrue.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs):

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) for IRAs and defined contribution plans, such as profit sharing and 401(k) plans, are waived for 2020. This includes your first RMD if you reached age 70½ during 2019. You do not have to qualify for a CRD in order to get this exception. If you have already received an RMD in 2020, you can roll it back into the plan within 60 days and defer paying taxes on the amount.


The tax year 2020 maximum earned income credit (EIC) is $6,660 for qualifying taxpayers who have three or more qualifying children, $6,728 in 2021.

For the tax year 2020, the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) amount used by married joint filers to determine the reduction in the lifetime learning credit is $118,000 and phases out at $138,000, $119,000 to $139,000 in 2021. For single filers and heads of households, the MAGI phase-out range is $59,000 to $69,000 for both 2020 and 2021. You can't claim the credit if you are a married individual filing separately. Health Spending:

For the tax years 2020 and 2021, the dollar limit for employee salary reductions for contributions to a health flexible spending account (FSA) is $2,750, up $50 from the limit for 2019.

For tax year 2020, participants who have self-only coverage in a medical savings account (MSA), the plan must have an annual deductible that is not less than $2,350 but not more than $3,550, $2,400 to $3,600 in 2021. For self-only coverage, the maximum out-of-pocket expense amount is $4,750, $4,800 in 2021. For participants with family coverage, the floor for the annual deductible is $4,750, and the deductible cannot exceed $7,100, $4,800 to $7,150 in 2021. For family coverage, the out-of-pocket expense limit is $8,650 for the tax year 2020, $8,750 in 2021. Estates and Gifts:

Estates of decedents who die during 2020 have a basic exclusion amount of $11.58 million, up from $11.4 million for estates of decedents who died in 2019. In 2021, the exclusion amount will rise to $11.7 million.

The annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000 for the calendar years 2020 and 2021, the same as it was for the calendar year 2019.

Energy Credits:

The residential solar, geothermal heat pumps, residential wind turbines and fuel cell property credit fell to 26% for 2020, down from 30% in 2019. It drops again to 22% in 2021 and ends after that. Residential solar buyers will lose the benefit of the solar ITC in 2023.

Standard Mileage Rates:

The 2020 standard mileage rate for business driving fell from 58¢ to 57.5¢ a mile, the rate will be 56¢ a mile for 2021. The mileage allowance for medical travel and military moves also declined from 20¢ to 17¢ a mile in 2020, the rate will be 16¢. The charitable driving rate stayed put at 14¢ a mile for 2020 and will remain the same for 2021. Medical Expenses:

The 2020 threshold for deducting medical expenses on Schedule A is 7.5% of AGI. The threshold for claiming the medical expense deduction was set to climb to 10% for 2021, but the new legislation lowers the threshold to 7.5%, permanently.

Long-Term Care Premium Deductibility:

The eligible age indexed LTC premium amounts are:

Attained Age Before Close of Tax Year

  • 40 or younger
  • 41-50
  • 51-60
  • 61-70
  • 71 and older

2020 Tax Year

  • $430
  • $810
  • $1,630
  • $4,350
  • $5,430

2021 Tax Year

  • $450
  • $850
  • $1,690
  • $4,520
  • 5,640

Benefits paid under a qualified LTCI plan are generally excluded from taxable income. The stated dollar amount of the per diem limitation, guaranteed tax-free benefit, or reimbursed amount is $400 for tax year 2021. In tax year 2020, the limit was $380. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT):

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) applies to alternative minimum taxable income (AMTI), i.e., regular taxable income with certain tax benefits added back, in excess of an exemption level.

For 2021, the exemption levels will be $114,600 for joint returns, $73,600 for unmarried individuals, and $57,300 for married persons’ separate returns. These exemption levels phase out between $1,047,200 and $1,505,600 for joint returns, $523,600 and $818,000 for unmarried individuals, and $523,600 and $752,800 for married persons’ separate returns. The AMT rate is 26% for AMTI up to a maximum AMTI of $199,900 for returns of married couples and single individuals, $99,500 for married filing separately. All AMTI in excess of these levels will be taxed at 28%. Qualified Business Income Deduction:

If your total taxable income, that is, not just your business income but other income is at or below $163,300 for single filers or $326,600 for joint filers, then in 2020 you may qualify for the 20% deduction on your taxable business income. In 2021, the limits rise to $164,900 for single filers and $329,800 for joint filers. Above the income limits, your ability to claim the pass-through deduction depends on the precise nature of your business.

Business Losses for Self-Employed People:

The CARES Act suspended the cap for deducting business losses on individual returns. Under the 2017 tax reform law, the amount of trade or business losses over $500,000 for joint filers and $250,000 for other filers is not deductible, with any excess carried forward. The CARES Act suspends this loss limitation rule generally for 2018 through 2020.

Interest on Tax Refunds:

For those who received a federal tax refund in 2020, you may have also been paid interest. The IRS wants you to know that refund interest payments are taxable and must be reported on your federal income tax return. In January 2021, the IRS will send Form 1099-INT to anyone who received interest totaling $10 or more. Make sure you report it on your 2020 return.


The penalty for not filing a federal tax return by the due date, or extended due date, is generally 5% of the unpaid tax for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late, up to 25% of the unpaid tax. However, if the return is more than 60 days late, a minimum penalty applies. If no return has been filed after 60 days, the minimum penalty that can be charged is $435 or 100% of the unpaid tax, whichever is less. In addition to penalties, interest will also be charged on any tax not paid by the due date.

Remember, if a refund is due, no penalty is charged on the late return filed by a taxpayer.