Update on the start of the WA Legislative Session

(Update from Suzi Levine, Commissioner of the Employment Security Dept)

Helping claimants and imposter fraud victims navigate unemployment benefit related taxes

Annually, we send out 1099 tax forms, as claimants need the data to include in their tax filings. This year, that activity is complicated by both the scale of the crisis as well as the criminal fraud attack. Since November, ESD has been working through a project to make this year’s 1099 process as smooth as possible. By the 15th of January we will be kicking off the mailing of 1.2 million 1099’s in order to meet the required January 31st deadline.

As a part of our efforts, we’ve identified two areas to address:

  1. Raising awareness of tax obligations for those claimants who may not have realized that unemployment benefits are taxable as income.
  2. Making sure that victims of fraud do not receive 1099s since they do not have to pay taxes on fraud in their name.

Especially for the first point, attached, you will find a simple and easy-to-use set of instructions that will be sent to all 1099 recipients, along with their 1099 form. It’s targeted to drive people to a specific website (http://esd.wa.gov/1099), eliminate calls to our call center, and, most importantly, reduce claimant fears. We also have a communication plan that will get information and messages out prior to sending out 1099’s – including this email.

On the second point, we have worked diligently to prevent 1099’s from going to imposter fraud victims and have finished a process that will achieve this. That said, we also know that there will be some individuals who were missed in this process and who will need support to get a corrected 1099.

For those who do call the call center, we will have a recorded message that will point them to the website or, if needed, a special number for 1099 claims. We are also pulling staff from other parts of the agency to help with this short-term bump.

Overall, we are ready, but also know that this has the potential to result in an influx to our call centers. Again, we are operationally preparing for that potential, establishing a team to answer 1099 calls, defining a mechanism to get those calls to that team, and of course, as previously mentioned, driving hard to get people to go to the website we stood up for this purpose www.esd.wa.gov/1099 rather than calling us.

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