The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only.

If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

Updated February, 18, 2021

Do I need to pay taxes on the stimulus payments I received from the federal government?

No. The federal government sent two rounds of stimulus payments to eligible individuals and their dependents under 17 years old. The first round was for $1200 for adults and $500 for eligibile dependents, and the second round was for $600. This is different from unemployment benefits you may have received. These payments are NOT taxable income, so you do not have to declare them on your 2020 return or pay taxes on them.

What if I did not receive my stimulus payments?

If you did not receive your stimulus payments:

  • Were you claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return? That person may have received the stimulus payment for you.
  • Did you receive a “Refund Anticipation Loan” (RAL) when you filed your 2018 or 2019 return? The tax preparer may have received the stimulus payment in a bank account set up for you. You should contact the tax preparer.
  • Were you divorced or separated in 2020? Your spouse or former spouse may have been sent the stimulus payment.
  • If you did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return and did not register on the IRS website, the IRS may not have known where to send your stimulus payment.

If you have not received your stimulus payment, or believe someone else wrongly received your stimulus payment, you should electronically file a 2020 tax return now, claiming the credits for the stimulus amount.

  • You can do this even if you did not work in 2020 or did not have enough income to need to file.
  • If your claim for a stimulus payment refund is denied by the IRS, you will have 30 days to submit a written appeal.

Do I need to pay taxes on my Unemployment Benefits?

Yes. Unemployment benefits are like wages, and you must report it as income on your tax return if you earned enough income to need to file taxes.

  • You should have federal and state income tax deducted from your unemployment benefits, if possible.
  • The Louisiana Workforce Commission should issue you a 1099, which will tell you how much you received. You’ll use this amount when you file your taxes. If you were not sent a 1099, use your own records to report.

If I withdrew money from an IRA or Retirement Account, will I need to pay taxes on it?

Yes. It is taxable income that must be reported on your tax return.

  • Normally, if you withdraw money before the age of 59 ½ years, you must pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty as well as the usual income tax.
  • Due to the pandemic, Congress has changed the rule for withdrawals made in 2020, so you do not have to pay the early withdrawal penalty.
  • You can also spread the withdrawal over 3 years, if you cannot pay tax.

Organizations that Provide Free Tax Preparing and Filing

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA Program) https://www.unitedwaysela.org/vita

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide provides taxpayers 60 and older with low income with free tax help.

You can also go to irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep to search for other free providers.

Be sure to protect yourself when filing your taxes or having them filed for you!

If you are filing your own taxes:

  • You can prepare your own taxes using software or forms downloaded at this website. You will have to create an online account to do this and will need to provide an e-mail address.
  • Low Income taxpayers can file electronically for free on this website.

If you are having someone else prepare and file your taxes:

  • Watch out for fraudulent tax preparers putting false information on your return or stealing your identity. Putting false information on your tax return is a crime. Only you are responsible for your tax return. If you receive a fraudulent refund, YOU will have to pay it back, not the tax preparer. Fraudulent tax preparers may try to steal your identity and file false returns in your name. The IRS has put together a directory of qualified tax preparers here.
  • It is illegal for a tax preparer to charge you a percentage of your refund. The preparer should quote you a set fee.
  • The tax preparer must ask you for documentation of your income, deductions, etc. If they do not, your tax return will not have accurate information.
  • DO NOT sign blank or incomplete returns. Your preparer must sign the return with you.
  • DO NOT allow the preparer list a bank account under their name for your refund to be sent to.

The SLLS Tax Clinic cannot electronically file your current tax return.

SLLS may be able to offer free help if you:

  • Federal taxes and cannot repay them.
  • Are being audited.
  • Need to file for Injured or Innocent Spouse relief.
  • Have been the victim of ID theft with the IRS.

To apply for services, call Lynnette Tillis toll-free at (877) 521-6242, extension 225, or apply on our website here. 

*Please note, our services are only available for residents of the following parishes: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge Parish, East Feliciana Parish, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions on CDC Order Halting Evictions

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

The federal  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order halting certain residential evictions due to the Covid-19 public health crisis until June 30, 2021. The order was recently extended.

You will need to fill out the declaration available here and submit it to your landlord.

If you need legal advice on how this order may apply to you, contact:

  • For Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Charles, and Plaquemines: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Housing Line at (504) 529-1000 ext. 223.
  • For other parishes throughout Southeast Louisiana (including and east of Baton Rouge): COVID-19 helpline at 1-844-244-7871

When did the order become effective?

The order took effect on Friday, September 4, 2020.

What properties are covered?

The CDC order applies to all residential rental properties. But as set out below only certain people are protected.

This is different from the earlier CARES Act eviction moratorium, which was based on whether the property had a federally backed mortgage or federal subsidy. The CDC order does not apply to commercial rental properties (for example, businesses). The CDC order also does not apply to evictions from hotels and motels.

What tenants are covered?

A person is a “covered person” under the order if they give their landlord a declaration under penalty of perjury that:

  1. The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  2. The individual either
    • expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint return),
    • was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or
    • received a stimulus check under the CARES Act;
  1. The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a layoff, or extraordinary  out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  2. The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other necessary expenses; and
  3. Eviction would likely render the individual homeless—or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.”

A suggested declaration containing the required language is available for download here. Every adult member of the household must fill out a declaration.

*Remember that it is a criminal offense to lie on a declaration under penalty of perjury!

Does the declaration have to be notarized?

No. It is sworn, so if you sign it but it does not apply to you, you can be prosecuted for perjury because of the language on the form.

What evictions are covered?

Evictions for non-payment of rent are covered. You can still be evicted for:

  1. Engaging in criminal activity on the property;
  2. Threatening the health or safety of other residents;
  3. Damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property;
  4. Violating any building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; or
  5. Violating any other lease requirement other than payment of rent.

Can I still be evicted because my lease is expired?

The order does not say whether you can be evicted because your lease is expired and the owner wants possession. But if people could be evicted because they are month-to-month, the purpose of the order would be totally undermined. A judge will have to decide this issue unless the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clarifies it.

You would still have to meet the other requirements on the declaration.

If you are evicted for lease non-renewal it might be important to have an attorney familiar with the CDC order represent you in court. (Call the number above to see if SLLS can provide you with free legal help).

When should I give my declaration to my landlord?

You should provide the form to your landlord as soon as possible. The order does not provide a deadline, as long as it is before you are physically evicted. 

How should I give my declaration to my landlord?

You should keep some form of proof for any court that you gave the declaration to your landlord. For example you can:

  • Text a picture of the signed declaration to your landlord, then screenshot the text message.
  • Email a picture of the signed declaration to your landlord, and print the email before going to court
  • Send the signed declaration to your landlord by certified mail and keep a copy of the mail tracking.
  • Make a copy of the declaration and have your landlord sign it to indicate receipt when you turn in the original.

Can I give something to my landlord to explain the importance of the form?

Here are some helpful documents explaining the CDC eviction moratorium that you can use:

What evidence do I need to back up the declaration?

The order only requires that you provide the declaration to your landlord. However, you should expect that judges may ask you questions about the declaration, so you should be prepared bring the following to court if the landlord files or has filed for an eviction:

  • Talk about, and even better, show your monthly budget with expenses you cannot avoid like utility bills, medical expenses, childcare, and food.
  • Explain, and even better, show how you used your stimulus payment if you did not use it to pay rent.
  • Talk about, and even better, show evidence of trying to make partial payments if your budget allows. For example you can bring screenshots of text messages, other evidence that you tried to work out a payment plan or make payments, or money orders for partial rent.
  • Talk about, and even better, show evidence that you have attempted to obtain rental assistance, for example a list of places you called and when you called them, or paperwork from an agency where you applied for assistance.
  • Show that your income is below $99,000, for example a document showing that you receive SSI, food stamps, the letter showing you got a Stimulus payment, a pay stub, or a printout showing the amount of your unemployment benefits.
  • Explain why you have nowhere to go if you get evicted, besides doubling up with family or friends, or going to a shelter.

What if my landlord already got an eviction judgment but I am still in my apartment because the constable has not come out yet?

If the eviction was for nonpayment of rent you are protected, ONLY IF you quickly take the step to become a “covered person” by giving the declaration to your landlord. So be sure to provide it right away. Then you must call the court and the constable to provide proof that you gave the declaration in order for them to stop the eviction. If this is your situation you should consider contacting an attorney right away. You may qualify for free legal aid from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at (504) 529-1000 x.223.

Here is the CDC declaration form.

If you provide the declaration, you would be protected because the order says that ‘Eviction’’ means “any action by a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or a possessory action, to remove or cause the removal of a covered person from a residential property.” After your landlord gets an eviction judgment, if you do not vacate the landlord has to go back to the court to file a “warrant for possession” or “writ of ejection” for the constable to come out and remove you. The order would bar the landlord from getting the warrant and putting you out, as long as you are a “covered person.”

Can my landlord give me a notice to vacate?
Landlords are prohibited from taking "any action" to remove a covered person from their home, unless it is for a reason allowed by the order (for example criminal activity or violation of the lease other than nonpayment). Therefore landlords are prohibited from giving notices to vacate for reasons that are not permitted under the order, including nonpayment of rent.

Is my rent still due?

Yes, your rent is still due, and your landlord can charge you late fees if you do not pay. Your landlord can sue you to collect a rent debt, or can report it to collections which could affect your credit or ability to get future housing.

Remember, to be a “covered person” you must be able to declare under penalty of perjury that you will attempt to make payments as close to the full amount of your rent as possible given your financial circumstances. Consider repeatedly getting money orders for the amount of rent that you can afford. For example, when you get your unemployment, paycheck, or social security check, think about how much you can put toward rent, even if it is a very small amount. Offer the money orders to your landlord and be sure to get a receipt if they are accepted. If you have the ability to text or email a picture of the money orders to your landlord, do so. If your landlord will not accept partial payment, keep the money orders somewhere safe so you can show a judge that you tried to make payments and that you still have that money available to give your landlord.

What happens when the Order Expires on June 30, 2021?

If you still have unpaid rent on April 1, 2021, your landlord will be able to evict you for nonpayment of rent. Your landlord can also sue you to collect a rent debt, or can report it to collections which could affect your credit or ability to get future housing.

What if I give my landlord the declaration, but my landlord still files for eviction?

You can apply for free legal services from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at the numbers below. See “What evidence do I need to back up the declaration?” above to start compiling documentation that you might need in court to show that your landlord cannot evict you.

  • For Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Charles, and Plaquemines: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Housing Line at (504) 529-1000 ext. 223.
  • For other parishes throughout Southeast Louisiana (including and east of Baton Rouge):

        COVID-19 helpline at 1-844-244-7871

Additional resources