Thompson Leads California Delegation in Defending Pandemic Unemployment Benefits

Press Release

Posted: March 17, 2022

Washington – Today, Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) led 22 members of the California Congressional delegation in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig calling for the protection of unemployment benefits after delays at the California Employment Development Department (EDD).

“It’s simple: Californians whose pandemic unemployment insurance payments were delayed due to the California EDD should not be penalized and forced to pay taxes on these payments,” said Thompson. “That is why I am leading a letter to Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig to ensure that Californians are not penalized for something that is no fault of their own. I am glad that so many of my colleagues are joining me to advocate for our constituents and ensure they receive the full benefits they deserve.”

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) allowed taxpayers earning less than $150,000 to exclude from income up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits paid in 2020. However, due to delays at the EDD, some taxpayers did not receive these benefits until 2021, leading to these benefits falling outside of the ARP exemption period.

The full letter can be found here and below.

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig:

We are writing to request your assistance on behalf of taxpayers whose 2020 unemployment insurance (UI) payments were delayed into calendar year 2021.

As you know, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) allowed taxpayers earning less than $150,000 to exclude from income up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation paid in 2020. However, due to delays at the state agencies overseeing UI benefits, some taxpayers did not receive their payments until calendar year 2021. It is our understanding that this delay, which was plainly not the fault of the taxpayer, will create a tax burden for our constituents – to the extent that any delayed payments received in 2021 would be fully taxable, even though the payments in question were explicitly paid to cover weeks in the previous year.

In enacting the ARP, Congress clearly intended that $10,200 of benefits paid to cover weeks of unemployment in 2020 should be tax-free. There is nothing any taxpayer could have done to prevent delays at the relevant state agencies, and they should not be penalized for that error. Furthermore, while we understand that state-level delays caused this problem, it is worth noting that virtually every government agency in the country – including the IRS itself – has experienced similar delays during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The past two years have been extraordinarily challenging. It is crucial that our constituents receive the full assistance provided to them by Congress. We recognize that solving this problem in the 2022 filing season presents logistical obstacles for both IRS and the taxpayer, and we are ready to work with you to find a path forward. Should Congress need to provide additional legislative clarity, we ask that you work swiftly with us to draft appropriate language.

Thank you, and we look forward to hearing from you.