What to know about the Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks)

Last updated 5/18/2020

Economic Impact Payments –commonly referred to as “stimulus checks” or “recovery rebates”– are a key provision of the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act legislation that Congress passed to help reduce the financial burden of COVID-19 on individuals and their families. The payments are an advance of a temporary credit for 2020 (which you file taxes for in 2021).

We will be keeping up on IRS guidance and updating this page periodically. For other updates on how COVID-19 will affect your taxes, see the COVID-19 Tax Resources.

1. Will I get an Economic Impact Payment?

Income Limits: If you are filing as single with an adjusted gross income (AGI) up to $75,000, married filing jointly with an AGI up to $150,000, or head of household with an AGI up to $112,500, you will receive the full payment. Above these income limits, the payment amount decreases 5 percent for every additional $100 of income up to $99,000 for a single adult, $136,500 for head of household, and $198,00 for a married couple.

If you have zero income you can still get the payment.

Age requirements: There is no age requirement for the stimulus check, however you cannot be someone else’s dependent. Children must be under 17 to get the additional payment for them.

Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN): You must have a valid Social Security Number in order to receive a check. If you are married filing jointly, both spouses must have Social Security Numbers (one for military). Children can have a Social Security Number or an Adoption Identification Number (ATIN). If a child has an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), you won’t get the additional payment for them, but you can still get the main payment.

2. How much money will I get from the stimulus check?

Eligible taxpayers will receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. Up to $500 is provided for each qualifying child who is a dependent under 17.

3. Will I get an Economic Impact Payment for my child?

You will receive an additional $500 per qualifying child. A qualifying child must be related to you (by blood, marriage, or adoption), under the age of 17, live with you for over half the year, have a Social Security number, and be claimed as your dependent. These are the same qualifying rules as for the Child Tax Credit.

4. How do I apply for the Economic Impact Payments?

If you’ve filed a tax return for tax year 2019 or 2018, you don’t need to do anything. The IRS will automatically send your payment. Social Security recipients, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), railroad retirees, and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiaries will also automatically receive a check.

If you aren’t normally required to file a tax return, you have the option of filing a simple form. You’ll need an email address to create an account. You’ll need to provide your full name (and name of spouse, if present), mailing address, date of birth, Social Security number, bank account information (if available), driver’s license or state-issued ID (if you have one), and details for any qualifying children you have.

5. What if I don’t have an email address?

You need to use an email address to complete the IRS simple form to get the payment if you don’t need to file taxes. The email will be used to confirm submission of your form. The IRS will not email info about your payment. If you don’t have an email address, you can ask a family member or friend to use their email, or create a temporary email address using a site like 10minutemail.com or guerrillamail.com. These sites allow you to check messages sent to the address for a short period of time which will allow you to confirm your account and form submission.

6. How will I get the stimulus check?

If you filed a tax return for tax year 2019 or 2018, the IRS will use your tax return information to determine the amount of your payment and will deliver it using the direct deposit information (if provided) or mailing address on the return. Social Security recipients, railroad retirees, and SSDI, SSI, and VA beneficiaries will be sent the payment using the information the Social Security Administration currently has on file.

7. When will I get the Economic Impact Payment?

The fastest way to receive the payment is through direct deposit. The IRS started distributing payments to people who already filed a 2019 or 2018 tax return and provided direct deposit information on April 9. Payments continued to be delivered through direct deposit throughout the month. Paper checks started to be mailed to people without direct deposit information at the end of April. Mailed payments are expected to have a significant delivery delay and some people will not receive payments for several months. See the chart at the end of this article for an estimated timetable for the IRS to mail checks.

The IRS’ Get My Payment tool allows you to look up the status of your payment, including the date when the payment is scheduled to be deposited or mailed.

8. Is there a deadline to get my Economic Impact Payment?

The IRS must have your information by October 15, 2020 to issue your payment this year. For many people, this means filing your taxes or completing the simple form. See question 4 on how to apply for the payment for more information.

If you miss this deadline you will be able to get your payment next year by filing a 2020 tax return.

9. How can I file my taxes?

If you know you need to file a 2019 tax return, you should do so as soon as possible to get your Economic Impact Payment and any tax refund that you are eligible for.

Online: If you’re comfortable using computers and confident preparing your own taxes, consider using a free online tax software. IRS Free File is one option available if your income is $69,000 or less. If you choose to use one of the programs that are part of this coalition, be careful to read the fine print. (Each program has slightly different criteria for their software). MyFreeTaxes is another online tool that helps you file your taxes for free. Unlike Free File, MyFreeTaxes does not have an income limit.

Virtual Help: Code for America, in partnership with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), (an IRS-sponsored free tax preparation program), has created a fully virtual intake process for free tax assistance. Visit Get Your Refund to connect with an IRS-certified volunteer who will help you file your taxes remotely.

Your local VITA site may also have virtual options. Some VITA programs provide a drop-off site, where you can drop off your tax forms to have a tax preparer complete your return and contact you when it is ready to review before it is sent to the IRS. Look up your local VITA program and call to see if this is a service they provide.

10. Can I file my taxes with a paper return?

If you have not filed your taxes yet and still need to, file electronically if possible. The IRS is not currently processing paper returns so your Economic Impact Payment will be delayed. If you need to complete the simple form because you aren’t normally required to file taxes, do it online.

11. What if I get government benefits? Will these payments count against eligibility? Or unemployment insurance?

Economic Impact Payments don’t count against means-tested programs like SNAP, TANF, or Medicaid. The payments are not counted as income during the month they are received and the following month and they are not counted as a resource for 12 months.

You will receive the check regardless of your employment status. The check will not impact your eligibility for unemployment payments; in fact, unemployment benefits have been expanded through July 2020.

12. What if I owe child support payments, owe back taxes, or student loan debt?

If you are overdue on child support, you could see your stimulus check reduced or eliminated based on the amount you owe. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send you a notice if this happens.

Your payment will not be interrupted if you owe back taxes or have student loan debt; you will receive the full amount.

If you use direct deposit and owe your bank overdraft fees, the bank may deduct these from your payment.

13. Are Economic Impact Payments taxable? Will I owe the IRS money next year?

Payments are non-taxable. You will not be required to pay anything back next year.

14. What if I don’t have an address?

Shelters and other service providers, such as health care clinics and drop-in day centers, may allow you to use their address for tax purposes. Other agencies that offer homeless prevention services like a Community Action Agency or Salvation Army are also options. If you are not staying in a shelter or cannot find a service provider nearby, you can also use a trusted relative’s or friend’s address. The IRS will deliver checks to P.O. boxes.

15. What if I don’t have a bank account?

If you don’t have a bank account, a paper check will be sent to the address you listed on your tax return.

Direct deposit is the quickest and safest way to get payments. Alternatives to receiving a paper check are opening a bank account or using a prepaid debit card. Once you get a card, you may need to contact the company directly to find the account and routing numbers needed for direct deposit. To find a bank, you can view this list of accounts offered by financial institutions that meet national standards. You can also use payment apps like CashApp, Venmo, or PayPal.

Do not provide the bank account information for someone else. Different names on the tax return and bank account will trigger a reject of the deposit, causing the IRS to send you a paper check which will delay the delivery of your payment.

16. How will I get my payment if I got a Refund Anticipation Check (RAC) or Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) when I filed my taxes?

The IRS will attempt to deliver your payment to the account information provided on your tax return. Some RALs and RACs are issued through debit cards. If the card is still active, you will receive your payment on the card. If the account or card is no longer active, the deposit will be rejected, and the IRS will send a paper check to the address on the tax return. You can check Get My Payment for updates on your payment delivery. If you see that the payment has been directly deposited into an account that you don’t have access to, contact the tax preparer who filed your return. If you are unable to reach them, contact your local Low Income Tax Clinic or Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) office for help.

17. What if I’ve had changes since filing my 2019 tax return (e.g. had a child, moved, got divorced, etc.)?

The IRS will still use information on your 2019 tax return to determine your payment amount. If you had a child, you will be able to get the additional $500 for them when you file your taxes next year.

If you got divorced and no longer live at the address on your tax return, or if you moved, the process is trickier. Normally, the IRS requires you to submit address changes by mail, however the IRS is not processing paper forms. If you received a paper check, you can notify the post office that services your old address so that it can forward the check (not all post offices forward government checks). Alternatively, you can try to provide direct deposit information using the IRS Get My Payment tool by May 13. Whether the IRS is able to successfully update your information before delivering the payment will depend on timing.

If you included direct deposit information for a joint account and have closed that account or you are no longer married, the IRS will still attempt to deliver the payment to that account. Once it is rejected, they will issue a paper check using the address on the 2019 return. If the account is still open and you don’t have access to it but your ex-spouse does, the situation is more complex and will take time to resolve. In this case, the best option will likely be to file what is called a superseding tax return. It will need to be submitted by the tax filing date of July 15, 2020. Contact your local Low Income Taxpayer Clinic for help. This tax return will need to be filed as a paper return. Since the IRS isn’t processing paper forms right now, your payment delivery will be delayed indefinitely. If you are unable to get help filing the superseding tax return, you may need to wait to file a 2020 tax return before getting the payment.

18. How can I get my Economic Impact Payment faster?

The quickest way to get your payment is through have direct deposit. Beware of scams! The IRS will not contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media to request personal information – especially banking details – or ask you to provide a “processing” fee. They will send written correspondence with instructions on steps to take and the timeframe for action. Remember, you do not need to pay to get this money.

Additionally, the IRS refers to this money as an “Economic Impact Payment.” Communications that use “stimulus check” or “recovery rebate” are unlikely to be from the IRS. Hang up on phone calls you receive and delete email or text messages that seem too good to be true. You can report scams to the Better Business Bureau to helps protect others.

19. What can I do if the amount of my stimulus payment is wrong?

If you didn’t get the additional $500 for your children or didn’t get the full payment amount that you expected based on your eligibility, you can get the additional amount by filing a 2020 tax return next year.

20. Can I get an Economic Impact Payment if I am incarcerated?

Currently, no. On May 6, the IRS ruled that people who are incarcerated are NOT eligible for payments and that any payments already mad should be returned to the IRS. Advocates are examining this interpretation of eligibility based on the CARES Act legislation.

21. I already filed my tax return and still haven’t gotten my payment. What can I do?

If you recently filed taxes, the IRS may still be processing your return. The IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit info if you owed federal taxes, didn’t get a refund, or had your refund mailed. Use the Get My Payment tool by May 13 to add your direct deposit details to get your payment sooner. After this date, the IRS will mail paper checks to people who already filed taxes. If you don’t have an account for direct deposit and cannot establish one, your payment will be mailed by check.

 

All information on this site is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice. The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities is not liable for how you use this information. Please seek a tax professional for personal tax advice.


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