How can I get my stimulus check if I am incarcerated?

By Christine Tran, 2020 Get It Back Campaign Intern

Disclaimer:

Information presented is based on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California’s order issued on September 24, 2020 stating that people who are incarcerated are eligible for stimulus checks. This court decision is the current law. The IRS is appealing this decision to maintain its position that incarcerated people are ineligible for stimulus checks. People who are incarcerated are encouraged to sign up for stimulus payments by the deadlines mentioned below while awaiting the outcome of the appeal process.

 If you are incarcerated in a state or federal prison, you are eligible to receive the $1,200 stimulus check if you meet all four requirements:

  1. You are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or qualifying resident alien.
  2. You have a valid Social Security Number. If you are married filing jointly, both spouses must have Social Security Numbers (one for military).
  3. You were not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
  4. Your income is under $75,000 (single, or married filing separately) or $150,000 (married filing jointly). You also qualify if you have no income.

I thought the IRS said incarcerated people weren’t eligible for stimulus checks. How am I now eligible?

On September 24, 2020, a federal judge issued an order requiring the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to stop withholding stimulus checks for incarcerated individuals. The judge also ordered that any stimulus check that was withheld, intercepted, or returned based on an individual’s incarcerated status needs to be reprocessed by October 24, 2020.

How can I get my stimulus check?

If you did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return and your income is below $12,200 if single or married filing separately (or below $24,400 if married filing jointly), there are two options to get your payment. Please note that the deadline for each option is different.

  1. If you have internet access, submit your information online using the IRS Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool to get your payment. The deadline to file online is November 21, 2020.
  2. If you do not have internet access, file a simplified tax return by following these instructions. The IRS has stated that people who are incarcerated should mail their completed form to:

Department of the Treasury

Internal Revenue Service

Austin, TX 73301-0003

However, the IRS will still process completed forms sent to the addresses listed in the instructions.

The form must be postmarked by November 4, 2020.

    • To help ensure that your check is delivered to you, add your unique personal corrections number in the last name box on the form (after writing your last name).
    • In the home address box on the form, you can put your facility’s address or a P.O. Box. Speak with your facility on the proper address to use on your form.
    • Check with your facility if there are specific rules to receive government tax refund checks.
    • The IRS has requested that prison officials give you the necessary forms and information on how to file. Read the IRS letter to prison officials to learn about what they can assist you with.
    • Here is a blank form to print and a completed sample form you can use for reference.

If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return or you are a Social Security or Veteran Affairs beneficiary and have not received your stimulus check, you don’t have to do anything. The government has until October 24, 2020 to reprocess and reissue your stimulus check if it was withheld, intercepted, or returned based on your incarceration status.

If you have already completed the IRS Non-Filer form and have not received your stimulus check, you don’t have to do anything. The government has until October 24, 2020 to reprocess and reissue your stimulus check if it was withheld, intercepted, or returned based on your incarceration status.

Can my family member, friend, or lawyer file for me?

The IRS has not provided a definitive answer to this question. The IRS Stimulus FAQs currently do not provide explicit guidance.

Attorneys at Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Berstein (who are working on this court case) recommend filing a paper claim with your signature as the safest option, when possible. Please refer to Cares Act Prison Case’s FAQs (question #7) for more information.

Otherwise, you can provide your consent to a family member or friend to have them complete the IRS Non-filer form on your behalf.

Where is my stimulus check?

Go to the IRS Get My Payment tool to check on the status of your stimulus payment. If you use the online IRS Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool to sign up for your payment, you can check the status within 2 weeks.

If you applied for a stimulus check before September 24, 2020 and it was rejected, intercepted, or returned, the IRS is required to reprocess your claim by October 24, 2020. You should expect to receive your stimulus check by November 1, 2020. If you have not received your payment by that time and do not see an update on the IRS Get My Payment tool, you can contact a lawyer at Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Berstein for free and confidential legal advice.

Need additional help?

If you or someone you know is incarcerated or recently released and needs help with getting the stimulus payment, you can contact a lawyer at Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Berstein for free and confidential legal advice. You can also call Root & Rebound at 510-279-4662 (only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

Additionally, use Prison Policy Initiative’s legal resource database to search by state for law firms and organizations that provide free legal assistance to incarcerated people on civil matters.

If you have questions or need help completing the IRS Non-Filer form, you can call the United Way’s 211 Stimulus Helpline at 1-844-322-3639 or contact your local Low Income Taxpayer Clinic for free help to file.


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