What you need to know about the May 17 tax deadline

In this FAQ: Unemployment income, taxes due, the home-office deduction, and a problem with e-filing if your 2020 federal return has still not been processed by the IRS

(Keith Srakocic/AP)

Even in a normal tax season, the IRS struggles to answer people’s questions about their returns. This year, that outreach effort has been complicated by the coronavirus.

The problem is twofold. The federal taxing authority is grappling with a tricky tax year, one filled with virus-related provisions enacted by Congress to boost the economy. On top of that, the pandemic has strained the agency’s resources. Taxpayers are finding it harder than ever to reach the agency to find out what they can and cannot do.

Although tax professionals and do-it-yourself preparation software can help walk people through their federal returns, the 2021 tax season nonetheless has folks perplexed. Are stimulus payments taxable income? Can my child attending college claim a stimulus-relief credit? Can workers take a home-office deduction now that they are commuting no farther than the kitchen table? You should want to know the answers.

To claim your stimulus payment, look for Line 30 on your 1040 tax form

Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at Betterment, an online financial management company, and Curtis Campbell, the president of TaxAct, one of the leading online tax preparation services, joined me this tax season for online tax chats. Here are the answers to some questions that kept popping up during the discussions. Some questions and answers may have been edited for clarity.