Tax season is coming — and for many, the coronavirus pandemic may complicate an already tricky process.
Stephanie Ruhle, NBC News senior business correspondent, answered some of viewers' most pressing questions about taxes on TODAY’s Instagram.
While the tax deadline has already been moved from April 15 to May 17, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recommends filing as soon as you can. Ruhle said that there's two reasons for this: People who are expecting refunds will get that money faster if they file sooner, and people who are expecting a stimulus check who weren't eligible last year may be eligible this year.
"Remember, last year, stimulus checks were based on what you earned in 2019," Ruhle said. "So think about what we saw last year: Tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs, and so their financial situations changed. Many, many people in that category would now be eligible for this American Rescue Plan stimulus (of $1,400.) The way for the IRS to know that is when you file your taxes."
Ruhle also answered a few questions about the stimulus check: It won't be taxed as income. Instead, think of it as an advance on a tax credit.
"Normally you would get a tax credit, like a refund. Instead, you're getting it early, in hand now," Ruhle explained. "So you can spend it. Because we know how much people need it, you will not be taxed on it."
If you owe taxes, the IRS will not take your stimulus check away, Ruhle said, explaining that the $1,400 stimulus payment "can't be touched." However, if you owe money to the IRS, it's important to pay that by the deadline or contact the IRS to organize a payment plan, which may require paying interest or other fees.
"You might pay some small fees, but you're going to pay very big fees ... if you don't pay at all," Ruhle said. "So reach out to the IRS. Get yourself on a plan."
While the stimulus money can't be taxed, some unemployment benefits can be: The American Rescue Plan states you don't owe taxes on up to $10,200 in benefits, but if you've received more than that, you will owe.
However, since the American Rescue Plan was just passed, some may have paid their taxes, including tax on unemployment benefits, already. If you're in this situation, Ruhle advises sitting tight.
"Wait it out," she said. "You will most likely get additional money back when you get your tax refund, but we're waiting for more instructions from the IRS, so keep checking the IRS website."
If you're one of the more than seven million Americans who have already filed, you might be expecting a refund soon: Ruhle said to keep an eye out, but understand that the IRS is busier than normal with changes like the American Rescue Plan, the CARES Act, and other pandemic-related provisions and accommodations. In a normal year, it takes about 21 days to receive a refund.
"The IRS is dealing with a lot of problems and a lot of questions," Ruhle explained, noting that the agency is in charge of sending out stimulus payments, which are expected to go to 85% of American households. "... That's one of the many reasons we are having this delay in the deadline. ... I know it's frustrating to deal with that delay, but the money is coming."
Ruhle ended the Instagram session with a message of hope for those waiting on their stimulus checks or tax refunds.
"Keep checking the IRS website and keep coming back to us with more questions," Ruhle urged. "We are here to help. I know it's confusing. I know it's overwhelming, but we're going to try to help you get through this, every day."