What Happens If You Don't Use Your Full Unemployment Benefits?

When a person loses his job, not through his actions, but for reasons related to the company's reorganization, he will generally qualify for the receipt of unemployment benefits. These benefits are paid by state agencies on a weekly or biweekly basis. These benefits are considered a government entitlement program, meaning that anyone who meets the criteria to receive them can do so. However, if a person fails to claim his benefits in the time allotted, he cannot do so retroactively.


Unemployment Benefits

The amount of benefits that a person receives will depend on how much money he was making before he way laid off and how much he is making now. A person must apply for benefits shortly after he has been laid off. Benefits are assessed from the first day that the person applies, although there may be a delay before the person can receive them. Benefits are not awarded for the time between a person's firing and the time he applied for benefits.


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Unclaimed Benefits

If a person waits too long to apply for benefits, he may not be able to receive them or may be able to receive them for a truncated period of time. In addition, if a person files for unemployment benefits and then discovers later he did not receive the full benefits to which he was entitled, he may or may not receive the difference, depending on who made the error.


Saved Benefits

If a person receives benefits and does not spend all the money given to him, he does not need to return it. Indeed, he will not be able to return it. In most states, a person will file for benefits once, but must reclaim benefits each week or two weeks. Each time a person claims benefits and they are approved, the issuance is final. They are his to keep, unless he believes they were wrongfully issued, in which case he may be able to return them.



Although unemployment benefits are a form of government benefit, the federal government and many state governments consider them a form of income. They are therefore subject to income tax at the federal and sometimes the state level. If a person does not spend all of his unemployment benefits, he is still liable for the taxes that were assessed on the all the benefits that he was issued.