Tax season during the time of COVID-19 can feel complicated, especially to the individual taxpayer, but fortunately there is some good news this year.

The government extended the time to file by a little more than a month, and since most people are not on a quarterly tax payment schedule, this means for most people, they get that full month.

One major question many may have a cause of concern for this season is the stimulus payments from the government. Throughout the past year, the government issued several COVID-19 stimulus payments directly to taxpayers. The good news is that the income increase based on those stimulus payments will not have their tax liability impacted by it. In other words, if you received any of those payments from the government, you don’t have to pay that back. Another big change this tax season is the liability caused from unemployment payments.

“For any individuals who were on unemployment this past year, one of the changes most recently that congress passed two weeks ago, was the unemployment benefits up to $10,000 would not be taxes for the 2020 year,” said Jim Brandenburg, a licensed CPA and tax partner with Sikich LLP based out of Brookfield, “If they filed before this law was even changed, the IRS announced on March 31 that [it] will go back and issue refunds to those individuals.” Brandenburg added that those who already filed and claimed unemployment in the past year for less than $10,000 won’t have to file an amended return.

For this year, Brandenburg says the best starting point is for people to do as they did in years past: gather all your standard paperwork, pay attention for things that would be new with the past year in particular, such as a change in employment, and consider any unusual expenses over the past year that could qualify for a further deduction. New expenses brought about by COVID, such as buying more hand sanitizer, wipes, or even face masks, could qualify as a deduction for some as a medical expense. Even if you haven’t tracked it this year, Brandenburg says it is likely the government may continue qualifying COVID precautionary and prevention supplies as a medical expense for the 2021 tax season, so tracking it going forward could help people next year.

Another major change Brandenburg says people need to be aware of going forward is the change on child tax credits. Under the recently passed American Recovery Act COVID relief law, the child tax credit was significantly increased. This change is likely to allow parents to hang on to even more earned income.

Brandenburg says one thing people need to do for sure is to not procrastinate when it comes to filing. He says even though the filing date was moved back to May, getting it done early would help make sure that not only is the refund (if applicable) is received earlier, but would allow more time to correct major mistakes that could lead to an audit.