Federal Help


What's New For 2021

Due date of return. File Form 1040 or 1040-SR by April 18, 2022. The due date is April 18, instead of April 15, because of the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia – even if you don’t live in the District of Columbia. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until April 19, 2022. That is because of the Patriots' Day holiday in those states.

Tuition and fees deduction not available. The tuition and fees deduction is not available after 2020. Instead, the income limitations for the lifetime learning credit have been increased. See Form 8863 and its instructions.

Economic impact payment—EIP 3. Any economic impact payment you received is not taxable for federal income tax purposes, but will reduce your recovery rebate credit.

2021 Recovery rebate credit. This credit is figured like last year's economic impact payment, EIP 3, except eligibility and the amount of the credit are based on your tax year 2021 information. See the instructions for line 30 and the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet to figure your credit amount.

Standard deduction amount increased. For 2021, the standard deduction amount has been increased for all filers. The amounts are:

  • Single or Married filing separately - $12,550.
  • Married filing jointly or Qualifying widow(er) - $25,100.
  • Head of household - $18,800.

Virtual currency. If, in 2021, you engaged in a transaction involving virtual currency, you will need to answer “Yes” to the question on page 1 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR. See Virtual Currency, later, for information on transactions involving virtual currency. Do not leave this field blank. The question must be answered by all taxpayers, not just taxpayers who engaged in a transaction involving virtual currency.

Credits for sick and family leave for certain self-employed individuals. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) helped self-employed individuals affected by coronavirus by providing paid sick leave and paid family leave credits equivalent to those that employers are required to provide their employees for qualified sick leave wages and qualified family leave wages. The COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 extended the period during which individuals can claim these credits. For more information, see the instructions for Form 7202 and Schedule 3, line 13b.

Extension and expansion of credits for sick and family leave. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, enacted on March 11, 2021 (ARP) provides that certain self-employed individuals can claim credits for up to 10 days of “paid sick leave,” and up to 60 days of “paid family leave,” if they are unable to work or telework due to circumstances related to coronavirus. Self-employed individuals may claim these credits for the period beginning on April 1, 2021, and ending September 30, 2021. For more information, see the instructions for Form 7202 and Schedule 3, line 13h.

Form 9000, Alternative Media Preference. Beginning in 2021, taxpayers with print disabilities can use Form 9000, Alternative Media Preference, to elect to receive notices from the IRS in an alternative format including Braille, large print, audio, and electronic. You can attach Form 9000 to your Form 1040 or 1040-SR or you can mail it separately. For more information, see Form 9000.

All taxpayers now eligible for Identity Protection PIN. Beginning in 2021, the IRS Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) Opt-In Program has been expanded to all taxpayers who can properly verify their identity. An IP PIN helps prevent your social security number from being used to file a fraudulent federal income tax return. You can use the Get An IP PIN tool on IRS.gov to request an IP PIN, file Form 15227 if your income is $72,000 or less, or make an appointment to visit a Taxpayer Assistance Center.

Direct deposit now available for returns filed late. You can now receive a direct deposit of your refund even if you file your 2021 return after November 30, 2022.

Expanded dependent care assistance. ARP expanded the child and dependent care tax credit for 2021 by making it refundable for certain taxpayers and making it larger. For 2021, the dollar limit on qualifying expenses increases to $8,000 for one qualifying person and $16,000 for two or more qualifying persons. The rules for calculating the credit have also changed; the percentage of qualifying expenses eligible for the credit has increased, along with the income limit at which the credit begins phasing out. Additionally, for taxpayers who receive dependent care benefits from their employer, the dollar limit of the exclusion amount increases for 2021. For more information, see the Instructions for Form 2441 and Pub. 503.

Child tax credit. Under ARP, the child tax credit has been enhanced for 2021. The child tax credit has been extended to qualifying children under age 18. Depending on modified adjusted gross income, you may receive an enhanced credit amount of up to $3,600 for a qualifying child under age 6 and up to $3,000 for a qualifying child over age 5 and under age 18. The enhanced credit amount begins to phase out where modified adjusted gross income exceeds $150,000 in the case of a joint return or surviving spouse, $112,500 in the case of a head of household, and $75,000 in all other cases.

If you (or your spouse if filing jointly) lived in the United States for more than half the year, the child tax credit will be fully refundable even if you don't have earned income. If you don't meet this residency requirement, your child tax credit will be a combination of a nonrefundable child tax credit and a refundable additional child tax credit, as was the case in 2020. The credit for other dependents has not been enhanced and is figured as it was in 2020.

Changes to Schedule 8812. Because of the changes made by ARP, detailed discussion of the child tax credit, and how to figure your child tax credit and credit for other dependents, which were previously part of these instructions, has been moved to the Instructions for Schedule 8812 (Form 1040). If you are claiming the nonrefundable child tax credit, refundable child tax credit, additional child tax credit, or credit for other dependents, complete Schedule 8812 and attach it to your Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

Premium tax credit (PTC). ARP expanded the PTC by eliminating the limitation that a taxpayer's household income may not exceed 400% of the Federal Poverty Line and generally increases the credit amounts. In addition, in 2021, if you receive unemployment compensation, you are generally eligible to claim the PTC if you meet the other requirements. For more information, see Pub. 974 and Form 8962 and its instructions.

Changes to the earned income credit (EIC). For 2021, the following changes have been made to the EIC.

  • EIC rules for taxpayers without a qualifying child. Special rules apply if you are claiming the EIC without a qualifying child. In these cases, the minimum age has been lowered to age 19 except for specified students who must be at least age 24 at the end of the year. However, the applicable minimum age is lowered further for former foster youth and qualified homeless youth to age 18. Additionally, you no longer need to be under age 65 to claim the EIC without a qualifying child.

  • EIC rules for taxpayers with a qualifying child. If you are claiming the EIC with a qualifying child, you should follow the rules that apply to filers with a qualifying child or children when determining whether you are eligible to claim the EIC even if your qualifying child hasn't been issued a valid SSN on or before the due date of your return (including extensions). However, when determining the amount of EIC that you are eligible to claim on your return, you should follow the rules that apply to taxpayers who do not have a qualifying child.

  • Phaseout amounts increased. The amount of the credit has been increased and the phaseout income limits at which you can claim the credit have been expanded.

  • Rules for separated spouses. If you are married but don't file a joint return, you may qualify to claim the EIC if you live with a qualifying child for more than half the year and either live apart from your spouse for the last 6 months of 2021 or are legally separated according to your state law under a written separation agreement or a decree of separate maintenance and do not live in the same household as your spouse at the end 2021.

  • Investment income limit increased. The amount of investment income you can receive and still be eligible to claim the EIC has increased to $10,000.

  • Prior year (2019) earned income. You can elect to use your 2019 earned income to figure your 2021 earned income credit if your 2019 earned income is more than your 2021 earned income. See the instructions for line 27a.

File Schedule EIC (Form 1040) if you have a qualifying child. If you have at least one child who meets the conditions to be your qualifying child for purposes of claiming the EIC, complete and attach Schedule EIC to your Form 1040 or 1040-SR even if that child doesn't have a valid SSN. For more information, including how to complete Schedule EIC if your qualifying child doesn't have a valid SSN, see the line 27a instructions and Schedule EIC.

Forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans. The forgiveness of a PPP Loan creates tax-exempt income, so you don't need to report the income on Form 1040 or 1040-SR, but you do need to report certain information related to your PPP Loan. To find out how to report information related to your PPP Loan, see Forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans, under Income, in the Instructions for Form 1040.

Identity verification. The IRS launched an improved identity verification and sign-in process that enables more people to securely access and use IRS online tools and applications. To provide verification services, the IRS is using ID.me, a trusted technology provider. The new process is one more step the IRS is taking to ensure that taxpayer information is provided only to the person who legally has a right to the data. Taxpayers using the new mobile-friendly verification procedure can gain entry to existing IRS online services such as the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, Online Account, Get Transcript Online, Get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN), and Online Payment Agreement. Additional IRS applications will transition to the new method over the next year. Each online service will also provide information that will instruct taxpayers on the steps they need to follow for access to the service. You can also see IR-2021-228 for more information.

 

Filing Requirements

Do You Have To File?

Use Chart A, B, or C to see if you must file a return. U.S. citizens who lived in or had income from a U.S. possession should see Pub. 570. Residents of Puerto Rico can use Tax Topic 901 at https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc901.html to see if they must file.

TIP: Even if you do not otherwise have to file a return, you should file one to get a refund of any federal income tax withheld. You should also file if you are eligible for any of the following credits..

  • Earned income credit.
  • Refundable child tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • American opportunity credit.
  • Credit for federal tax on fuels.
  • Premium tax credit.
  • Health coverage tax credit.
  • Recovery rebate credit.
  • Credits for sick and family leave.
  • Child and dependent care credit.

See Pub. 501 for details. Also see Pub. 501 if you do not have to file but received a Form 1099-B (or substitute statement).

Requirement to reconcile advance payments of the premium tax credit. If you, your spouse with whom you are filing a joint return, or a dependent was enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace for 2021 and advance payments of the premium tax credit were made for this coverage, you must file a 2021 return and attach Form 8962. You (or whoever enrolled you) should have received Form 1095-A from the Marketplace with information about your coverage and any advance payments.

You must attach Form 8962 even if someone else enrolled you, your spouse, or your dependent. If you are a dependent who is claimed on someone else's 2021 return, you do not have to attach Form 8962.

Exception for certain children under age 19 or full-time students. If certain conditions apply, you can elect to include on your return the income of a child who was under age 19 at the end of 2021 or was a full-time student under age 24 at the end of 2021. To do so, use Form 8814. If you make this election, your child doesn't have to file a return. For details, use Tax Topic 553 at https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc553.html or see Form 8814 at IRS.gov.

A child born on January 1, 1998, is considered to be age 24 at the end of 2021. Do not use Form 8814 for such a child.

Resident aliens. These rules also apply if you were a resident alien. Also, you may qualify for certain tax treaty benefits. See Pub. 519 for details.

Nonresident aliens and dual-status aliens. These rules also apply if you were a nonresident alien or a dual-status alien and both of the following apply.

  • You were married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien at the end of 2021.

  • You elected to be taxed as a resident alien.

See Pub. 519 for details.

CAUTION. Specific rules apply to determine if you are a resident alien, nonresident alien, or dual-status alien. Most nonresident aliens and dual-status aliens have different filing requirements and may have to file Form 1040-NR. Pub. 519 discusses these requirements and other information to help aliens comply with U.S. tax law.

 

When and Where Should You File?

File Form 1040 or 1040-SR by April 18, 2022. The due date is April 18, instead of April 15, because of the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia – even if you don’t live in the District of Columbia. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until April 19, 2022, because of the Patriots' Day holiday in those states. If you file after this date, you may have to pay interest and penalties. See Interest and Penalties, in the Instructions for Form 1040 at IRS.gov.

If you were serving in, or in support of, the U.S. Armed Forces in a designated combat zone or contingency operation, you may be able to file later. See Pub. 3 for details.

If you e-file your return, there is no need to mail it. However, if you choose to mail it instead, filing instructions and addresses are at the end of the instructions for Form 1040 at IRS.gov.

TIP: The chart at the end of these instructions provides the current address for mailing your return. Use these addresses for Forms 1040 or 1040-SR filed in 2022. The address for returns filed after 2022 may be different. See IRS.gov/Form1040 for any updates.

 

What if You Can't File on Time?
You can get an automatic 6-month extension if, no later than the date your return is due, you file Form 4868. For details, see Form 4868. Instead of filing Form 4868, you can apply for an automatic extension by making an electronic payment by the due date of your return.

CAUTION. An automatic 6-month extension to file doesn't extend the time to pay your tax. If you don’t pay your tax by the original due date of your return, you will owe interest on the unpaid tax and may owe penalties. See Form 4868.

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, you may qualify for an automatic extension of time to file without filing
Form 4868. You qualify if, on the due date of your return, you meet one of the following conditions.

  • You live outside the United States and Puerto Rico and your main place of business or post of duty is outside the United States and Puerto Rico.

  • You are in military or naval service on duty outside the United States and Puerto Rico.

This extension gives you an extra 2 months to file and pay the tax, but interest will be charged from the original due date of the return on any unpaid tax. You must include a statement showing that you meet the requirements. If you are still unable to file your return by the end of the 2-month period, you can get an additional 4 months if, no later than June 15, 2022, you file Form 4868. This 4-month extension of time to file doesn't extend the time to pay your tax. See Form 4868.

Private Delivery Services
If you choose to mail your return, you can use certain private delivery services designated by the IRS to meet the “timely mailing treated as timely filing/ paying” rule for tax returns and payments. These private delivery services include only the following.

  • FedEx First Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2 Day, FedEx International Next Flight Out, FedEx International Priority, FedEx International First, and FedEx International Economy.

  • DHL Express 9:00, DHL Express 10:30, DHL Express 12:00, DHL Express Worldwide, DHL Express Envelope, DHL Import Express 10:30, DHL Import Express 12:00, and DHL Import Express Worldwide.

  • UPS Next Day Air Early A.M., UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, and UPS Worldwide Express.

To check for any updates to the list of designated private delivery services, go to IRS.gov/PDS. For the IRS mailing address to use if you’re using a private delivery service, go to IRS.gov/ PDSStreetAddresses.

The private delivery service can tell you how to get written proof of the mailing date.

 

Chart A - For Most People

IF your filing status is... AND at the end of 2021
you were*...
THEN file a return if your gross income** was at least...
Single
under 65
65 or older
$12,550
14,250
Married filing jointly***
under 65 (both spouses)
65 or older (one spouse)
65 or older (both spouses)
$25,100
26,450
27,800
Married filing separately any age $5
Head of household under 65
65 or older
$18,800
20,500
Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child under 65
65 or older
$25,100
26,450

*If you were born on January 1, 1957, you are considered to be age 65 at the end of 2021. (If your spouse died in 2021 or if you are preparing a return for someone who died in 2021, see Pub. 501.)

**Gross income means all income you received in the form of money, goods, property, and services that isn't exempt from tax, including any income from sources outside the United States or from the sale of your main home (even if you can exclude part or all of it). Don’t include any social security benefits unless (a) you are married filing a separate return and you lived with your spouse at any time in 2021, or (b) one-half of your social security benefits plus your other gross income and any tax-exempt interest is more than $25,000 ($32,000 if married filing jointly). If (a) or (b) applies, see the instructions for lines 6a and 6b to figure the taxable part of social security benefits you must include in gross income. Gross income includes gains, but not losses, reported on Form 8949 or Schedule D. Gross income from a business means, for example, the amount on Schedule C, line 7, or Schedule F, line 9. But, in figuring gross income, don’t reduce your income by any losses, including any loss on Schedule C, line 7, or Schedule F, line 9.

***If you didn't live with your spouse at the end of 2021 (or on the date your spouse died) and your gross income was at least $5, you must file a return regardless of your age.

 

Chart B - For Children and Other Dependents (See Who Qualifies as Your Dependent, later.)

If your parent (or someone else) can claim you as a dependent, use this chart to see if you must file a return.

In this chart, unearned income includes taxable interest, ordinary dividends, and capital gain distributions. It also includes unemployment compensation, taxable social security benefits, pensions, annuities, and distributions of unearned income from a trust. Earned income includes salaries, wages, tips, professional fees, and taxable scholarship and fellowship grants. Gross income is the total of your unearned and earned income.

Single dependents. Were you either age 65 or older or blind?

No. You must file a return if any of the following apply.

  • Your unearned income was over $1,100.
  • Your earned income was over $12,550.
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of -
    • $1,100, or
    • Your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $350.

Yes. You must file a return if any of the following apply.

  • Your unearned income was over $2,800 ($4,500 if 65 or older and blind).
  • Your earned income was over $14,250 ($15,950 if 65 or older and blind).
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of -
    • $2,800 ($4,500 if 65 or older and blind), or
    • Your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $2,050 ($3,750 if 65 or older and blind).

Married dependents. Were you either age 65 or older or blind?

No. You must file a return if any of the following apply.

  • Your unearned income was over $1,100.
  • Your earned income was over $12,550.
  • Your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions.
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of -
    • $1,100, or
    • Your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $350.

Yes. You must file a return if any of the following apply.

  • Your unearned income was over $2,450 ($3,800 if 65 or older and blind).
  • Your earned income was over $13,900 ($15,250 if 65 or older and blind).
  • Your gross income was at least $5 and your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions.
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of -
    • $2,450 ($3,800 if 65 or older and blind), or
    • Your earned income (up to $12,200) plus $1,700 ($3,050 if 65 or older and blind).

 

Chart C - Other Situations When You Must File
You must file a return if any of the six conditions below apply for 2021.

  1. You owe any special taxes, including any of the following.
    1. Alternative minimum tax.

    2. Additional tax on a qualified plan, including an individual retirement arrangement (IRA), or other tax-favored account. But if you are filing a return only because you owe this tax, you can file Form 5329 by itself.

    3. Household employment taxes. But if you are filing a return only because you owe this tax, you can file Schedule H by itself.

    4. Social security and Medicare tax on tips you didn't report to your employer or on wages you received from an employer who didn't withhold these taxes.

    5. Write-in taxes, including uncollected social security and Medicare or RRTA tax on tips you reported to your employer or on group-term life insurance and additional taxes on health savings accounts. See the instructions for Schedule 2, line 8.

    6. Recapture taxes. See the instructions for line 16 and Schedule 2, lines 7b and 8.


  2. You (or your spouse, if filing jointly) received health savings account, Archer MSA, or Medicare Advantage MSA distributions.

  3. You had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400.

  4. You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security and Medicare taxes.

  5. Advance payments of the premium tax credit were made for you, your spouse, or a dependent who enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace. You or whoever enrolled you should have received Form(s) 1095-A showing the amount of the advance payments.

  6. Advance payments of the health coverage tax credit were made for you, your spouse, or a dependent. You or whoever enrolled you should have received Form(s) 1099-H showing the amount of the advance payments.

  7. You are required to include amounts in income under section 965 or you have a net tax liability under section 965 that you are paying in installments under section 965(h) or deferred by making an election under section 965(i).