- Third stimulus check: Why some people should file their taxes ASAP
- Ongoing negotiations
- Why filing taxes ASAP could get you more
- Adjustments later?
- Stimulus checks and taxes
- How the timing of your tax return could affect your third stimulus payout
- Did you face a financial setback in 2020?
- Why some should wait to file
- Why you shouldn't panic
- 5 Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Early
- 1. Early filers eliminate tax deadline stress
- 2. Early filers average larger refunds
- 3. Early filers can protect their refunds from identity thieves
- 4. Early filers with a tax bill have time to make a plan
- 5. Early filers face less competition for access to their tax professional
- What Seniors Should Know Before Filing 2020 Taxes
- 2. Penalties are penalties
- 3. There's still a chance to claim missing stimulus checks
- 4. And those stimulus checks aren't taxable
- 5. But your unemployment checks may be taxable
Third stimulus check: Why some people should file their taxes ASAP
With lawmakers negotiating another round of coronavirus relief aid, many Americans are eager to learn if and when they'll receive a third stimulus check. Aside from Congress' time frame for passing the legislation, there's another factor that could influence stimulus payments: your 2020 tax returns.
The reason boils down to the confluence of tax-filing season and the expectation that Congress will pass the next relief bill by mid-March.
The IRS officially started accepting tax returns on February 12, but said that the filing window will close on its customary date of April 15.
The American Institute of CPAs earlier this month urged the IRS to announce by March 1 if it intends to extend the tax filing deadline for all taxpayers.
So far, the IRS has only extended the tax deadline for residents of Texas, who have until June 15 to file their returns due to the deadly storms that hit that state.
The current timeline effectively means the agency may start distributing stimulus checks in the middle of tax season, which could affect how much Americans get — especially households that lost income last year or who had a child in 2020. The reason: The IRS relies on each individual's most recent tax filing to determine their stimulus check payment.
If a taxpayer doesn't file their 2020 tax returns before Congress passes its next relief bill, the agency will ly rely on their 2019 tax return to calculate their stimulus check payment — and that 2019 return might not reflect income losses during last year's economic crisis or a new child, for example.
“I would suggest that people file as soon as possible, especially with 75% of taxpayers last year receiving a tax refund close to $3,000,” said Lisa Greene-Lewis, a tax expert at TurboTax. “We are hearing a lot of people say, 'I had a baby in 2020, how will the IRS know this? When they issued the previous stimulus payment they didn't know that.'”
To be sure, there's another reason to file early: To get your tax refund as soon as possible, especially if you are owed some money from either one or both of the past stimulus checks.
For instance, people who had a baby in 2020 would be entitled to an additional $1,100 in stimulus money ($500 from the first round, and $600 from the second round), which they can claim on their 2020 tax returns.
Any additional money owed from the past two stimulus checks will be sent through refund checks this year, the IRS said.
Currently, lawmakers are negotiating details of the next stimulus package, including what income thresholds should apply for the next round of checks, called Economic Impact Payments. Under one plan, Democrats could lower the annual income thresholds to qualify for a payment to $50,000 or less for single people and $100,000 or less for married couples, according to the Washington Post.
On February 8, however, House Democrats pushed back on those lower income limits, proposing to keep the income thresholds at the same level as for the previous checks.
That would ensure the full $1,400 relief payments would go to individuals making $75,000 or less, while couples earning $150,000 would be entitled to $2,800 relief payments.
The payments would ratchet down for incomes above those levels, phasing out entirely for single people earning $100,000 or more and couples earning $200,000 or more.
In a CNN Townhall in Wisconsin on February 16, Mr.
Biden emphasized that he's committed to passing a large stimulus bill, noting that economists believe a significant investment can help the economy recovery in the short- and long-term.
“That overwhelming consensus is, in order to grow the economy a year, two, three and four down the line, we can't spend too much,” Mr. Biden said. “Now's the time we should be spending. Now is the time to go big.”
Lawmakers could move forward with the bill in the next couple of weeks, sending it to Mr. Biden for his signature, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNBC on February 18.
“President Biden has discussed the checks with Republicans and members of Congress,” she said. “He wants to make sure that they're appropriately targeted so they go to people in need. You know, not to very high-income people who don't need it.”
Why filing taxes ASAP could get you more
Taxpayers should consider two issues: Their income in 2019 versus 2020 and whether they had a child last year, noted Mark Jaeger, director of tax development at TaxAct.
Take a single worker who earned $90,000 in 2019 but who lost her job during last year's massive layoffs and ended up earning $45,000 in 2020. If she doesn't file her 2020 tax returns by the time Congress passes the next relief bill, the IRS would ly base her third stimulus check on her 2019 earnings.
In that case, she would most ly receive less than $1,400 because the IRS would use her 2019 earnings of $90,000 to determine her payment.
(The exact amount would depend on the phase-out amounts set by the legislation.
) But if she files her 2020 tax return as soon as possible, the IRS will record her most recent annual income as $45,000 — qualifying her for the full $1,400 payment the income thresholds now under discussion.
Lawmakers work toward stimulus compromise 08:45
The same situation could occur for people who welcomed a child into their family in 2020. If the IRS relies on their 2019 tax return, the agency won't be aware of the new family member. As a result, the claimant wouldn't get the proposed $1,400 payment for a dependent to which they're entitled.
There could be a downside to filing early, particularly for people whose income rose in 2020, compared with 2019, and exceeded the income threshold. If that's the case, Jaeger said, you may want to wait until after the legislation is passed to file your taxes.
Take a single taxpayer who earned $70,000 in 2019, but got a promotion and earned $90,000 in 2020 — which is $40,000 above the salary limit for the full stimulus payment.
“You are now in that threshold of phasing out,” Jaeger said. “You are better waiting because the IRS will use your 2019 info” to determine your third stimulus check.
To be sure, the details of the third stimulus checks are still fluid, and the rules could end up differing from the two previous stimulus checks, noted Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at financial services firm Betterment. But, he added, “It's more ly that someone's income went down in 2020 and that filing sooner would then help them qualify for more money.”
It's possible the IRS could create a way to reconcile stimulus payments later this year, Jaeger said. For instance, if your income fell in 2020 but you don't file your taxes before the next relief bill is passed, that could allow taxpayers to claim the additional funds in the summer — rather than waiting until next year's tax filing.
The IRS is keeping an eye on the stimulus bill taking shape in Congress and “building a number of contingencies any new legislation,” said Ken Corbin, the new chief taxpayer experience officer at the IRS, in a February 11 conference call with reporters. “We are thinking through what is that experience for taxpayers who might be entitled for more.”
He added, “If someone is able to file an accurate return sooner, then we encourage them to file that return as soon as they are able to.”
Stimulus checks and taxes
Taxpayers who didn't receive their full stimulus payments in the first two rounds of checks may also want to file their 2020 tax returns quickly.
By doing so, they'll be able to claim the additional money on Form 1040s through what the IRS calls the Recovery Rebate Credit, or an adjustment between what you received from the IRS versus what you should have gotten — such as if your income decreased or you had a child in 2020.
As of February 10, the IRS said it has issued all the first and second stimulus payments it is “legally permitted to issue.” On the February 11 conference call with reporters, IRS officials said they had issued more than 140 million payments for the second stimulus check, compared with 160 million of the first stimulus check.
The second stimulus check had a lower income phaseout, which means fewer households may have qualified for a check.
But there could be instances where people didn't receive the check, such as if the IRS didn't have an active bank account for direct deposit or a current address for the recipient.
In that case, the IRS says people can claim the second stimulus check on their 2020 tax return.
The IRS has published a Recovery Rebate Credit worksheet to walk through whether you could receive extra funds. The amount can then be entered on line 30 on IRS Form 1040. People who received the full amounts under the first two stimulus checks won't have to enter anything on their 2020 tax returns, the IRS' Corbin said.
How unemployment affects your taxes 01:12
The tax agency is urging people to file electronically this year and select direct deposit to ensure the fastest delivery of their refunds. Consumers may also want to avoid refund anticipation loans from tax preparers such as H&R Block.
While those refund anticipation loans can provide quicker access to refunds, the IRS had trouble with the previous two stimulus checks in directing the money to those RAL accounts, which are temporary accounts set up by intermediaries. In other words, relying on those accounts could delay the delivery of a third stimulus check.
Paper returns take longer to process because IRS workers must open the forms and enter the information into its systems, Corbin said. The IRS is still processing 6.7 million individual returns from last tax season, he added.
“Anyone who is eligible for a [stimulus check], who didn't get one or didn't get full amount, may claim it on their 2020 tax returns,” he noted. “The credit will be paid as part of your refund.”
How the timing of your tax return could affect your third stimulus payout
The much anticipated third stimulus check is supposed to give people a financial lift during the pandemic.
But it's raising new questions during tax season, such as: Do I really need to file my 2020 federal income tax return as soon as possible to get a bigger payout?
Increasingly, we're hearing buzz that some people who lost their jobs or faced a significant cut in income last year might want to file their 2020 federal income tax return in February to try to engineer the biggest stimulus payment possible for the upcoming checks.
The dollar amount of your stimulus check is bigger, after all, if you have a lower income in a given tax year. The first two stimulus programs — and the third — offer a smaller payout — or phase out all together — once your income hits a set threshold.
The earlier you file, the theory goes, the easier it will be for the Internal Revenue Service to base the anticipated third stimulus payment on your 2020 income in time for any possible roll checks in late March. Congressional Democrats have an incentive for passing a stimulus plan in the coming weeks, given that millions would lose unemployment benefits by April without another stimulus package.
Before you rush, though, you should understand that the stimulus package isn't a done deal. And frankly, this isn't a strategy for everyone.
Did you face a financial setback in 2020?
Is it to your advantage to have the IRS look at the 2019 tax return? Or the 2020 income? Everyone's situation is different.
The IRS is able to use information, including your income, from your 2019 return to calculate the next Economic Impact Payment, if your 2020 tax return isn't filed and processed by the time the IRS starts issuing the third stimulus payments.
The third stimulus payment is such things as whether you're filing single or married filing a joint return; how many dependents you have, and your adjusted gross income.
Mind you, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan continues to be debated in Congress and we don't know the exact income limits or possible restrictions for who will get a check.
The third stimulus plan calls for payouts of up to $1,400 for singles and up to $2,800 for married couples.
President Joe Biden's plan also calls for giving an extra $1,400 for dependents, regardless of age. The proposal calls for additional payments to go to all dependents, not just children 16 and younger.
Even so, some might look at the possibility of another stimulus check as another incentive for doing your taxes ASAP.
(Photo: Getty Images)
“It does seem possible that some taxpayers could increase the amount of their third round of stimulus payments by filing their 2020 tax returns early,” said Mark Luscombe, a certified public accountant and principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting.
“Under the proposed language of the House Ways & Means Committee bill,” he said, “the IRS is directed to use 2020 return information rather than 2019 return information in determining that amount of the advance payments if that information is available.”
Millions of people, of course, were work in 2020 as efforts to limit the spread of the virus temporarily shut down or reduced hours at restaurants, theaters, shopping malls, amusement parks and other places of business.
The file-early deal could work if you made good money in 2019 but had a rougher financial year in 2020.
If a single taxpayer had $100,000 of adjusted gross income for 2019 but only $75,000 of adjusted gross income for 2020, for example, he or she would be better off filing a 2020 tax return earlier, Luscombe said.
By filing earlier, he said, the taxpayer would receive the third stimulus payment that 2020 tax return.
Biden is backing a Democratic stimulus bill that would provide $1,400 stimulus checks to all individuals making under $75,000 a year or $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns. That threshold is the same that it was for the first two Economic Impact Payments.
The stimulus payments, again under this latest proposal, would be gradually reduced for singles with an AGI between $75,000 and $100,000 and married couples who are joint filers with an AGI between $150,000 and $200,000.
But some earlier discussion explored the possibility of limiting the next round of stimulus payments to those making a limited amount of money. There had been talk of providing the full stimulus amount to those making $50,000 or less for single people and $100,000 or less for married couples.
Matt Hetherwick, the director of individual tax programs for the Accounting Aid Society in Detroit, said it's hard to judge how filing earlier could work for you until actual legislation passes Congress and is signed into law by the president.
By filing a 2020 tax return earlier, Hetherwick said, the IRS would have current information about you that might be beneficial, such as the birth of a child in 2020 or the fact that you saw your income fall from 2019 to 2020.
A reduction in income in 2020, he said, might move a taxpayer to either being eligible for the full stimulus amount or at least a partial amount.
Why some should wait to file
Obviously, rushing to file a 2020 tax return now is not good strategy for everyone.
If, for example, you found a much higher paying job in 2020 than 2019, you could be better off waiting, depending on your income. Or maybe you got a big bonus in 2020.
“If a taxpayer had the opposite situation, with $75,000 of adjusted gross income on the 2019 tax return but $100,000 of adjusted gross income on the 2020 tax return, they would be better off holding off on filing their 2020 tax return to let the IRS base the advance payment on 2019 adjusted gross income,” Luscombe said.
And are you really prepared to file a return early in the game?
Taxpayers don't want to rush into filing a return in February or March, just to file as soon as possible, according to Ken Corbin, the new IRS chief taxpayer experience officer, a newly created position that is designed to better help the agency address taxpayer problems. Corbin also serves as commissioner for the IRS wage and investment division.
The best bet is generally to avoid any mistakes and file when the correct paperwork and information that you need are available.
If you don't have the correct W-2 forms or 1099s now, for example, the return is ly to face delays in processing. It's best to file when you have a complete tax return.
“We always encourage taxpayers to file the most accurate return they can,” Corbin said.
Why you shouldn't panic
Will you lose out on money in the long run if you delay filing a 2020 return? Not necessarily.
And that's exactly why some of this early-filer buzz might be a bit confusing.
The IRS could be able to make an additional advance payment later in 2021, Luscombe said, the current language in the House Ways & Means Committee bill.
Say you received the third stimulus payment in late March your 2019 tax return but you had a much lower income in 2020.
If your 2020 tax return was filed by April 15, for example, you could see a second payout for that third stimulus that would reflect all of what you were owed the 2020 income.
some complicated rules, Luscombe explained that the current language notes that the IRS will send you a second payment to reflect the extra money if your 2020 return is filed and processed before July 14.
If the IRS later decides to extend this year's tax deadline beyond the April 15 filing deadline, as happened during the pandemic last year, you could have even more time, possibly up to Sept. 1. But it's best not to bank on that extension, as currently the IRS says it has no plans to go beyond April 15.
The deadline for the IRS to make advance payments is Dec. 31, 2021.
Again, the rules could change what is ultimately passed by Congress.
Even so, some taxpayers may have other incentives for filing the 2020 federal income tax return as early as possible.
The Recovery Rebate Credit, which can be claimed on Line 30 of the 1040, can help someone who did not receive their first or second stimulus payments yet.
“I have already had two clients whose income went down in 2020 and we claimed part of the first two stimulus payments as a tax credit,” said George Papadopoulos, a Novi-based financial advisor and CPA, who prepares taxes for his financial planning clients.
“Needless to say, they were pleasantly surprised and are looking for it to hit their bank account soon,” he said.
The IRS notes that if individuals didn't receive an Economic Impact Payment — or if they didn’t receive the full amounts — they may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit and must file a 2020 tax return.
“Legislation required that the second round of stimulus payments had to be issued by Jan. 15, 2021,” according to the IRS.
While some second round Economic Impact Payments may still be in the mail, the IRS said it has issued all first and second Economic Impact Payments it is legally permitted to issue, information on file for eligible people.
The IRS said it issued more than 160 million stimulus payments in the first round to taxpayers across the country totaling more than $270 billion.
Since Congress enacted the COVID-19-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 in December, the IRS has delivered more than 147 million stimulus payments in the second-round totaling more than $142 billion.
As the negotiations continue relating to a third stimulus, Papadopoulos said, we don't really know how much the payments will be and what kind of income limitations will be in place.
We will have to wait and see. But all the stimulus talk could give many another reason to avoid waiting until the last minute to file their tax returns.
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5 Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Early
Whether it’s scrambling to finish that college term paper the night before it’s due or running around the mall looking for Aunt Carol’s present on Christmas Eve, we’ve all been guilty of procrastinating important tasks at some point.
But there’s one thing we love putting off until the last minute more than anything else: Paying our taxes.
During the 2019 tax season, nearly 34 million taxpayers waited until the week before or the week of Tax Day to file their tax returns. That’s about the same number of tax returns filed in the entire month of March.1 No wonder we’re all stressed during tax season!
But with over 70% of taxpayers receiving an income tax refund each year of nearly $2,800 on average, we can’t think of a good reason you’d want to delay filing your taxes.2
And that’s not the only benefit of early filing! Here are a few more reasons to get your act together early this tax season.
1. Early filers eliminate tax deadline stress
According to a recent TaxSlayer survey, a majority of taxpayers (52%) are stressed over filing their taxes.3 No shocker there! Any time you face an unpleasant task, it’s best to get it the way as soon as possible. Income taxes are no different. You have to fill out the forms and you have to file them, so just grit your teeth and get it over with.
Taxes shouldn't be this complicated. Let us help.
Give yourself a fake deadline—well ahead of the actual Tax Day deadline—to get your taxes taken care of. Once your return is filed, give yourself a small reward for being so efficient and responsible. Go to the movies. Or have a dance party in your living room. You’ve earned it! Then relax while everyone else stresses out about getting their taxes done on time.
Once your return is filed, give yourself a small reward for being so efficient and responsible.
2. Early filers average larger refunds
Now listen, a tax refund is not free money. Getting a large refund from the IRS just means you’ve been lending Uncle Sam your money (without interest) all year long—he’s just returning what’s already yours!
If you get a refund that’s more than a few hundred dollars, you probably need to work with a tax pro and your HR department to adjust your withholdings on your W-2 form. Watching those larger paychecks hit your bank account will make you feel you got a raise!
That being said, if the government does owe you money this year, you want to make sure you’re getting every dollar that’s rightfully yours—and filing early can help you do that. IRS data shows that taxpayers who file by late February get significantly larger refunds than those who file later—around $400 on average.4,5
Obviously, if you know you’re getting a refund, you’re more ly to file sooner, and that could be part of the reason early filers enjoy larger refunds.
But another reason is that the sooner you start on your taxes, the more opportunity you have to make sure you’re claiming all the tax deductions and tax credits you’re eligible for, which takes more time and documentation than claiming the standard deduction.
3. Early filers can protect their refunds from identity thieves
There you are, just wrapping up your tax return and about to file it in . . . but it’s rejected. That’s because a tax return using your Social Security number has already been filed, and your heart sinks into your stomach as you realize you’re now a victim of tax refund fraud.
And it happens more often than you think. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the IRS estimated that online tax fraudsters tried to steal at least $12.2 billion through identity theft tax refund fraud in 2016. And while the IRS was able to thwart most of those robbery attempts, $1.6 billion still ended up in the hands of these thieves.6
Filing early may not completely eliminate the threat of identity theft, but it can protect your refund. If thieves file a return using your Social Security number before you do, the IRS will kick out your return since their records show you’ve already been paid. It can take months to clear up the mess with the IRS and finally receive your refund.
Filing early may not completely eliminate the threat of identity theft, but it can protect your refund.
4. Early filers with a tax bill have time to make a plan
When you’re facing an income tax bill instead of a refund, it’s natural to put off filing as long as possible. But if you go ahead and fill out your tax forms and file them, you’ll know exactly how much you have to pay—and you won’t have to pay in full until Tax Day.
The more time you have to come up with the money, the less ly you are to bust your budget or drain your emergency fund. So, don’t spend the first part of the year with your head in the sand. Get the facts about what you owe, make your plan, and get that tax bill the way.
You can save time and reduce hassle by gathering the right paperwork the first time around. Not sure what you’ll need to have in hand to file your taxes? Download your free tax preparation checklist.
5. Early filers face less competition for access to their tax professional
You may have found out the hard way that it’s tough to get on a good tax pro’s schedule during crunch time. In fact, if you need a pro and haven’t set an appointment by at least four weeks out from Tax Day, you may have to file an extension.
On top of that, some tax pros will charge more to complete your taxes as the filing deadline approaches. The best way to avoid all that hassle is to get an appointment with your advisor as soon as possible.
Now, if you have a relatively simple tax return and want to try filing yoru taxes on your own, check out RamseySmartTax. If your taxes are more complicated, however, a pro may be your best bet.
Don’t have a tax pro or want to work with a new one this year? We can put you in touch with a tax advisor Dave recommends in your area today!
What Seniors Should Know Before Filing 2020 Taxes
Death and taxes may be the two certainties in life, but at least you know when the taxman will come knocking. Federal income tax returns are due May 17 this year, not the traditional April 15 filing deadline.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) extended the deadline because of the enormous backlog caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and the most recent stimulus bill, whose payments started rolling out shortly after the IRS began processing 2020 tax returns.
The IRS set Feb. 12 as the start date for processing 2020 returns, which is later than normal. It was Jan. 27 last year. The IRS says it needed the extra time to reprogram systems due to the tax law changes on Dec. 27 that authorized a second round of stimulus payments.
Are you a procrastinator? Any taxpayer can get an automatic filing extension to Oct. 15 by submitting Form 4868, “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
” However, you still must pay the amount of tax you owe by May 17 or face interest and penalties.
Soldiers in combat zones and people living in disaster areas typically get an extension on both filing and paying federal income taxes.
2. Penalties are penalties
Another certainty: If you're required to file a federal tax return but don't, you'll pay.
If you file after May 17 without having asked for an extension, you'll have to pay a late filing fee, which is 5 percent of the taxes you owe for each month, or part of a month, that a tax return is late.
That penalty starts accruing the day after the tax filing due date and can build up to a maximum of 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
The IRS also levies a late payment penalty, which is 0.5 percent of your unpaid taxes each month. (That's 6 percent annually.) If you blow the filing deadline and the payment deadline, however, the maximum monthly penalty is 5 percent of your unpaid taxes. Un the late filing penalty, the late payment fee keeps accruing until you pay your taxes.
You can pay your taxes by credit card if you don't have the money you owe on hand. But be warned that you'll be charged a processing fee. You can also ask the IRS for a payment plan via this online tool.
3. There's still a chance to claim missing stimulus checks
If you didn't get a stimulus check last year — or if you didn't get as much as you were entitled to — you can claim the missing stimulus money on your 2020 tax return in the form of a tax credit called the Recovery Rebate Credit. (The stimulus payments were, technically, an advance on this tax credit.) A tax credit reduces your taxes, dollar for dollar — and in this case, it can not only reduce your taxes to zero but produce a refund.
Here's an example: A family of four who met the eligibility requirements was entitled to a total of $5,800 in the two rounds of stimulus checks.
If the family had overpaid their taxes by $200, they normally would have expected a $200 refund.
But if the family never received the stimulus payments owed to them, they could recover the money with their 2020 tax return for a $6,000 refund — the $200 in overpaid taxes plus the $5,800 worth of missing stimulus payments.
Use the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet that comes with your federal tax return to figure how much of a credit, if any, you're eligible for. The 21-line worksheet looks intimidating, but it's worth the effort if you're missing money. No itemization is required. The amount from the worksheet goes on line 30 of your 1040 form.
4. And those stimulus checks aren't taxable
According to the IRS, stimulus payments are not considered income and no tax is owed on the money. Stimulus payments are also not considered income for purposes of determining eligibility for federal benefits or assistance programs.
5. But your unemployment checks may be taxable
Unemployment benefits were a lifeline for many who lost their jobs last year during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, those jobless benefits are taxable — but fortunately, up to $10,200 of 2020 unemployment benefits is exempt from federal income tax for households with an adjusted gross income under $150,000. Married couples who got unemployment payments can each exclude $10,200 of unemployment benefits.
When you signed up for unemployment benefits, you had the option to have taxes withheld. Whether you did or not, you'll receive a Form 1099-G, “Certain Government Payments,” which will show the amount of unemployment benefits you received in 2020 and how much, if anything, was withheld for taxes. Any severance pay you received last year is also taxable.
Depending on your income and the number of dependents you have, you may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which could reduce the taxes you owe, dollar for dollar, by as much as $6,660.
the Recovery Rebate Credit, the EITC is a refundable credit, which means that you’ll get the full amount of the credit you’re eligible for, even if you had no income and even if it results in a refund.