It's tax time: Here's what you need to know

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- People need to think about security, especially if they file online and this tax season.

2020 was different for so many Americans. Action News spoke with Mary Arthur of the Campaign for Working Families, Inc. about how those changes will impact your taxes.

The first topic she addressed was unemployment benefits, which are taxable income.

"Hopefully everyone clicked that box that said, 'Take that 10%,' otherwise, you will be responsible on the federal level to pay those taxes," she said.

Stimulus payments are not taxable and if you're missing any stimulus money, you can file for the Recovery Rebate Credit.

And if you set up a home office can you deduct those expenses?

"If you are a W-2 employee, you cannot," she said.

Good news for teachers though, the list of expenses you can deduct has expanded to include COVID-19 protective items.

Matthew Starzec is like 90% of Americans who file their taxes online, either using a professional tax preparer or tax software.

"We've been doing our taxes online for the last seven years. It's easy. It's convenient," he said.

And, paired with direct deposit, electronic filing is the fastest way to get a refund. But is it safe?

"The IRS says all tax prep software will now have multi-factor authentication, which asks users for an extra bit of info to log in like a code sent to their email," said Consumer Reports Security Editor Yael Grauer.

Because even if someone steals your password, multi-factor authentication, often called two-factor, could still stop them from getting into your account.

But before you even file, CR said to take a few minutes to make sure your sensitive online accounts and your router are secured using strong passwords.

Use a string of random words, numbers and special characters, something no one could guess. Or, better yet, consider using a password manager so you don't have to remember all of them.

"Our top-rated password manager is 1Password. It's the only one we tested to earn top marks for data privacy, data security, and usability," said Grauer.

You can also protect your personal tax information by simply looking for the "https" or a little lock at the beginning of the web address. Otherwise, it could be a fraudulent site.

"Sites with HTTPS use encryption to prevent any information you exchange from being spied on or changed while it's traveling across the internet," said Grauer.

Newer iPhones and Android phones come with encryption already enabled. It is also available for Mac and Windows computers, you may just need to enable it in the security settings. So if either is lost or stolen your data can't be accessed.

Consumer Reports has created a free online security planner to help you secure your devices and accounts.

The IRS began accepting returns on February 12.
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