Unemployment Insurance is governed at both the state and federal levels. The Department of Labor Employment Training Administration governs unemployment insurance at the federal level. Each state has independent unemployment insurance guidelines, but they must also follow the established federal guidelines. "The general rule (for unemployment insurance eligibility) is that workers must have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and must be able, available, and actively seeking work," according to the Department of Labor's website. Further eligibility is determined at the state level.

File Your Initial Claim

Gather your most recent pay stubs including final check, bonus payments, vacation pay-out and severance.

Closely follow your state's instructions on applying for unemployment insurance. Errors or failure to provide necessary information may result in the denial of your claim.

Report all bonus payments in the space provided on the claim form. If you are reporting the claim over the phone, you will receive a prompt to enter this information. In most cases, you will be asked to report the gross payment (amount before taxes).

State the time period for which the bonus was paid and the reason for the bonus, as this information may determine whether or not your benefit check is reduced.

Reporting Bonus Payment Prior to Your First Benefit Check

Retain the pay stub from the bonus check, as you will need that information when you report the income.

Immediately contact your state unemployment agency to report payment of the bonus, plus any other additional income.

Remember to make note of the time period of the bonus and why it was paid.

Mail the unemployment agency a copy of the pay stub if required.

Retain the pay stub for future reference and documentation.

Reporting the Bonus After Your Claim is Approved

Use the claim form that you received with your benefit check to report the bonus income. If you did not receive a claim form, contact the unemployment insurance agency.

Make note of the time period of the bonus and why it was paid, in the space provided on the claim form.

Provide documentation of the bonus if requested.

Retain a copy of the bonus pay stub for your records.


When reporting bonus income, pay close attention to the instructions on the claim form. If the form requests gross payment, list the amount before taxes. For net payment, list the amount after taxes.

Don't assume that bonus payment will automatically reduce your unemployment insurance benefits. Each state has separate guidelines on what income will reduce benefits.


When reporting income to the unemployment agency it is essential to be accurate and truthful. Errors and omissions may result in denial of your claim. In addition, failure to report income may result in penalties and even criminal prosecution, depending on your state.