You could save up to $50,000 with one-time COVID credits and benefits in 2021. Here’s how – CNET

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These tax credits and health plan changes could save your family thousands of dollars this year.


Sarah Tew/CNET

                                            <p class="speakableTextP1">This year, you could be one of more than 100 million people who will get more money in tax credits, tax breaks and expanded health benefits, due to new pandemic-related benefits that Congress approved in the <span class="link" data-track="anchorLink"><a href="https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/new-stimulus-bill-provides-more-than-1-check-heres-every-way-you-get-money/" data-component="linkTracker" data-link-tracker-options="{&quot;action&quot;:&quot;link_anchor&quot;}">March stimulus law</a></span> and other temporary rule changes. These chances for savings and extra money back come alongside the&nbsp;<span class="link" data-track="anchorLink"><a href="https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/irs-stimulus-check-delivery-status-what-happens-now-if-your-payment-didnt-already-arrive/" data-component="linkTracker" data-link-tracker-options="{&quot;action&quot;:&quot;link_anchor&quot;}">third stimulus check</a></span> for <span class="link" data-track="anchorLink"><a href="https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/is-your-third-stimulus-check-the-right-amount-make-sure-the-irs-sent-your-full-payment/" data-component="linkTracker" data-link-tracker-options="{&quot;action&quot;:&quot;link_anchor&quot;}">up to $1,400 per person</a></span> and dependents that the <span class="link" data-track="anchorLink"><a href="https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/irs-stimulus-check-delivery-status-what-happens-now-if-your-payment-didnt-already-arrive/" data-component="linkTracker" data-link-tracker-options="{&quot;action&quot;:&quot;link_anchor&quot;}">IRS continues to send out</a></span>&nbsp;(<span class="link" data-track="anchorLink"><a href="https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/no-stimulus-check-yet-track-your-1400-payment-with-this-irs-app-and-check-its-status/" data-component="linkTracker" data-link-tracker-options="{&quot;action&quot;:&quot;link_anchor&quot;}">track your stimulus check here</a></span>).&nbsp;</p><p class="speakableTextP2">Whether you qualify for these new benefits depends on many different factors, including your <span class="link" section="shortcodeLink"><a href="https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/adjusted-gross-income-for-taxes-child-tax-credit-stimulus-checks-how-to-find-it/">adjusted gross income</a></span>, <span class="link" data-track="anchorLink"><a href="https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/child-tax-credit-500-3000-or-3600-per-kid-we-break-down-your-monthly-total/" data-component="linkTracker" data-link-tracker-options="{&quot;action&quot;:&quot;link_anchor&quot;}">if you have children</a></span> or <span class="link" section="shortcodeLink"><a href="https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/new-stimulus-law-could-save-you-thousands-on-cobra-health-insurance-fsa-for-months/">if you have COBRA health insurance</a></span> -- so not everyone will be able to claim every item listed here. But for many people, these changes could end up saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.&nbsp;

Here are seven of the tax credits and health savings you can claim this year that could potentially bring your family a maximum of around $50,000, depending on your personal situation. 

$20,576 max per family: Free COBRA insurance premium coverage through September

Typically, if you lose your job, you can buy insurance coverage through your former employer under the government Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act program. However, you usually have to pay the full price for that insurance, which can be very costly. While it’s difficult to estimate COBRA costs, as plans vary depending on how much your insurance plan cost your former employer, the average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2019 were $7,188 for single coverage and $20,576 for family coverage, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Under the March law, the government will pay COBRA premiums for laid-off employees and family members from April 1 through Sept. 30. (However, you’re not eligible if you have Medicare, if you left your job voluntarily, or if you qualify for new, employer-provided health insurance before that date.) 

The stimulus law requires employers to send former workers who qualify for COBRA a notice of eligibility. But if you haven’t gotten that, you can call your former employer to make sure you are signed up for coverage. In addition, some states may have their own version of reduced health care, including California

Read more: Best tax software for 2021

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The latest stimulus law made COBRA health insurance plans far more affordable through December. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

$1,800 max per individual: Stimulus check recovery rebate credit

While most people got their first and second stimulus checks automatically, some did not due to IRS errors or their status as tax nonfilers (which often includes those who are retired, veterans or part of the SSI and SSDI programs). If you didn’t receive the full amount that you were owed from the first check (up to $1,200) or the second check (up to $600), or were missing money for any of your dependents, you can claim that money on your 2020 tax return. This is called a recovery rebate credit — here’s how to file for it. You’ll have to file a return to get this credit even if you don’t usually file taxes

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<h2>$6,660 max per family: Earned income tax credit</h2>Designed to benefit people with lower incomes, the earned income tax credit can reduce your taxable income and wages. Under the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, part of the <span class="link" section="shortcodeLink"><a href="https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/decembers-stimulus-bill-every-major-benefit-you-get-including-a-second-check-for-600/">December coronavirus relief package</a></span>, you can use your 2019 or 2020 amount of earned income to calculate your tax credit for 2020 -- a potentially important provision for people who lost their jobs during the pandemic.&nbsp;

Eligibility for EITC depends on your adjusted gross income, filing status (single, head of household, widowed or married) and number of dependents claimed. Here are the income requirements needed to qualify for the earned income tax credit this year, according to the IRS:

                                <h2><span>Tax year 2020 income requirements to claim the earned income tax credit</span></h2>
                        <div class="chartWrapper">
        <table>
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            <thead>

                                    <tr>



                                                                                    <th>
                                                                        Children or Relatives Claimed
                                                                </th>



                                                                                    <th>
                                                                        Maximum AGI (filing as Single, Head of Household or Widowed)
                                                                </th>



                                                                                    <th>
                                                                        Maximum AGI (filing as Married Filing Jointly)
                                                                </th>
                                                                                                                                    </tr>

                                                                                                                                                                        </thead>
                                                                                            <tbody>

                                    <tr>



                                                                                    <th>
                                                                        0
                                                                </th>



                                                                                    <td>
                                                                        $15,820
                                                                </td>



                                                                                    <td>
                                                                        $21,710
                                                                </td>
                                                                                                                                    </tr>


                                    <tr>



                                                                                    <th>
                                                                        1
                                                                </th>



                                                                                    <td>
                                                                        $41,756
                                                                </td>



                                                                                    <td>
                                                                        $47,646
                                                                </td>
                                                                                                                                    </tr>


                                    <tr>



                                                                                    <th>
                                                                        2
                                                                </th>



                                                                                    <td>
                                                                        $47,440
                                                                </td>



                                                                                    <td>
                                                                        $53,330
                                                                </td>
                                                                                                                                    </tr>


                                    <tr>



                                                                                    <th>
                                                                        3
                                                                </th>



                                                                                    <td>
                                                                        $50,594
                                                                </td>



                                                                                    <td>
                                                                        $56,844
                                                                </td>
                                                                                                                                    </tr>

                                                            </tbody>

                                        </table>
    </div>

If you meet those income requirements, here’s how much money you can claimed for the earned income tax credit on your 2020 tax return: 

  • No qualifying children: $538
  • 1 qualifying child: $3,584
  • 2 qualifying children: $5,920
  • 3 or more qualifying children: $6,660

Note that if you claim this credit, the IRS may request additional information, which could result in your refund being delayed.

$3,600 max per dependent: Child tax credit 

The child tax credit is designed to benefit working families by allowing them to claim a refundable credit per qualifying child. Under the new stimulus law, the amount you can claim has gone up: Instead of the previous $2,000 per child, you can now claim $3,600 per child for kids 5 and under and $3,000 for children between 6 and 17. Older kids could bring you $500. There are certain income limitations — find out if your children qualify here, and use our child tax credit calculator to estimate how much money your family might be eligible for.

Even parents of babies born or adopted in 2021 can take advantage of the credit this year. Money from the credit will be split, with half paid through your tax refund, and the other half paid monthly from July to December. (Find out more about tax credits for parents here.)

As with the earned income tax credit, claiming this credit may trigger a request for additional information, which could delay your refund. Note that you likely don’t need to file an amended tax form to take advantage of this credit.

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Increases to the child tax credit could mean a lot more money for your family.


Sarah Tew/CNET

$8,000 max per family: Child care credit

To make child care more affordable, the new stimulus law provides a child care tax credit for kids under age 13 — a total of up to $4,000 for one child, or $8,000 for two or more children. The credit is refundable and available to families making less than $125,000 a year. Those making between $125,000 and $400,000 may receive a partial credit. Find out more from the IRS here.

$1,000 max per individual: Saver’s credit

If you’ve made eligible contributions to an IRA or an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you might be able to claim a saver’s credit. To do this, you need to be age 18 or older, not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return, and not be a student. The amount you can claim depends on your adjusted gross income, and will be a portion of the contributions you made. The maximum credit you can claim is $1,000 ($2,000 if you’re married filing jointly). The IRS has a chart to help you calculate your credit. 

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<h2>$7,500 max per individual: Credit for older adults and people with disabilities</h2>Those age 65 and over or who are retired on permanent and total disability who received taxable disability income for the year, and fall under a certain income limit, may be eligible for this tax credit ranging from $3,750 to $7,500. <a href="https://www.irs.gov/help/ita/do-i-qualify-for-the-credit-for-the-elderly-or-disabled" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow" data-component="externalLink">Use this IRS tool to find out if you qualify for the credit for the elderly or people with disabilities</a>.

If you’re wondering about the different tax deductions you may be eligible for, check out our story on the 12 best tax deductions for 2021, and why you may not be able to claim the home office deduction, even if you work remotely now. Plus, find out when you might get your third stimulus check, how much stimulus money you’re eligible to receive and what we know so far about a potential fourth stimulus check.

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