- Part of the $2 trillion stimulus package from the US government is onetime cash payments of up to $1,200 to Americans who qualify.
- The IRS sent more than 159 million payments as of June 5, mostly by direct deposit and paper check.
- A House committee estimated on June 5 that between 30 and 35 million payments have yet to be issued.
- If you filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, or you don’t file taxes but do get federal benefits such as Social Security, you don’t have to do anything to get a payment.
- If you don’t file taxes or get Social Security, SSI, or Veterans benefits, the IRS has an online tool where you must submit information to register for a payment by October 15.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
Update 12/22: Congress has approved a second stimulus check. Read all about it here.
When President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, into law, he initiated a $2 trillion stimulus package, the largest emergency relief bill in American history.
Part of that package is onetime cash payments of up to $1,200 to Americans who qualify, plus extra for married couples and children.
An extra $1,200 is always welcome. But with the announcement of the cash came the questions: What is it? Who gets it? How much will I get? Is it taxable? What do I have to do to get it?
Below, we’ve answered those questions and more. Read on for everything to know if you’re still waiting for your coronavirus stimulus check.
What is a coronavirus stimulus check?
The payment — which the IRS is calling an “economic impact payment,” the government has named a “recovery rebate,” and many people are calling a “stimulus check” — is technically an advance tax credit meant to offset your 2020 federal income taxes.
Will I get a stimulus check?
You will get a check if you:
- Have a Social Security number.
- Have filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, or don’t earn enough to file but receive federal benefits payments, including Social Security retirement or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Veterans Affairs benefits.
- Earned less than $99,000 for single filers, $136,500 for heads of household, or $198,000 for married filers according to the most recent tax return filed.
- Are not claimed by someone else as a dependent.
Will a stimulus check affect my tax refund?
No. Even though the stimulus payment may feel and look like a tax refund, it’s not. You’ll still get your full tax refund next year (and this year too, for that matter), as long as you file a tax return.
The stimulus check is a tax credit, which reduces your tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis. It’s like having store credit at your favorite clothing shop — when you apply it to your total bill, it reduces what you owe.
You usually can’t claim a tax credit until you file your taxes since you don’t know what you owe until the year is over. Because of the severity of this national crisis, the government is giving qualifying taxpayers their credit early in the form of a cash payment. It will not affect your refund this year or next.
Can my bank take my stimulus check?
It may. While the CARES Act does not allow your stimulus payment to be garnished for federal or state debts (except child support), it doesn’t explicitly prohibit private debt collection.
If you are receiving your payment through direct deposit, it can legally be seized by your bank to pay offset a negative account balance caused by things like delinquent debt or overdraft charges, according to a report from the Prospect’s David Dayen.
While the New York Times reported that some people banking with
have had their stimulus payments taken, it also said the four biggest
— JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi Bank, and Bank of America — “are pausing their collections on negative account balances to give customers access to the stimulus.”
Here’s some advice on what to do if your bank takes your stimulus payment.
How much will I get in my stimulus check?
The IRS bases the amount of your payment on the adjusted gross income (AGI) listed on your most recent tax return: 2018 or 2019.
The maximum payment is $1,200 for single filers with an AGI below $75,000 or single parents (heads of household) with an AGI below $112,500. Married couples who file jointly and have an AGI below $150,000 will get a total of $2,400.
Payments will begin to phase out at a rate of $5 for each $100 over the AGI threshold before ceasing at an AGI of $99,000 for single filers, $136,500 for heads of household, and $198,000 for married filers. There’s also an additional $500 allotted to parents who have an AGI within the phaseout range for each child younger than 17.
You can use an online calculator to figure out how much your check will be if you’re unsure.
Do I need to do anything to get a stimulus check?
You might — the process is automatic for most Americans who qualify, with the exception of non-filers (more on that below).
To get a payment, you must have a Social Security number. Nonresident aliens, people without a Social Security number, and adult dependents are not eligible.
The IRS is able to deliver payments by direct deposit much faster than mailing paper checks, and has urged people to submit direct-deposit information if it doesn’t already have yours. If you don’t provide bank information, the IRS will mail you a check.
If you file taxes:
If you filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, that tax return must reflect an adjusted gross income below $99,000 for single filers, $136,500 for heads of household, and $198,000 for married filers.
If you file taxes but don’t usually get a tax refund, and therefore haven’t given the IRS your direct-deposit information, the IRS will send your payment by mail. There was a tool allowing filers to provide bank details, but the deadline has passed.
If you don’t file taxes:
If you don’t file taxes but do get federal benefits, the government will use that information for your payment.
Americans who didn’t have a tax liability in 2018 or 2019 and don’t get Social Security payments, veterans benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should use a tool on the IRS website if they want to get paid. The deadline to submit your information is October 15, 2020.
Prior to the IRS portal, TurboTax also launched its own free web portal for people who don’t file taxes to submit direct-deposit information to the IRS.
Who won’t get a stimulus check?
Dependents older than 16, people without a Social Security number, and those with incomes above $99,000 (or $136,500 if you file as a head of household) won’t get a stimulus check.
How will I get my stimulus check?
Most people will get the money deposited directly into their bank accounts if they filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return. People who get Social Security benefits will get their money the same way they get their Social Security payments. The same for SSI recipients and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries.
If you don’t file taxes, you will also get a payment but will need to register for it using a free online tool on the IRS website by October 15.
People who do not set up direct deposit with the federal government will be mailed a paper check or a prepaid debit card.
When will I get my stimulus check?
The IRS had processed 159 million stimulus payments as of June 5, according to a report from the House Ways and Means Committee. If you’re still waiting on yours, you can track the status of your payment on the IRS website.
If you don’t have a tax liability, you need to register for a payment using the “Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here” tool on the IRS website by October 15.
Here’s more information about when your payment should arrive.
What if I’m a US citizen who lives abroad?
American citizens who live in another country are eligible for a stimulus payment. Unfortunately, the IRS online tools do not support foreign address or non-US banks, so some expats are experiencing delays in receiving their payment by direct deposit, the fastest delivery method.
If you qualify for a payment but the IRS does not have your bank account information from a previous tax return — or you use a non-US bank — you’ll be sent a paper check or prepaid debit card to your last known address.
How does the IRS know where to send my stimulus check?
In most cases, the IRS will take direct-deposit information or a mailing address from your most recent tax filing or a more recently updated address on file with the US Postal Service.
For people who receive federal benefits, like Social Security, but don’t have enough income to file taxes, the IRS will use the information from those payments.
If neither of the above situations applies to you, but you qualify for a payment, the IRS has set up an online tool through which you can give the IRS your contact details.
What if I got a stimulus check by mistake?
The IRS is asking that you return the money “immediately” — but hasn’t said what will happen if you don’t. Anyone who is a nonresident alien, in prison, or deceased should not have gotten a stimulus payment, according to the IRS. But many of those people, or their family members did, since most payments are based on 2018 and 2019 tax returns and people who file jointly are treated as one recipient.
The IRS says that a living spouse is entitled to keep their portion of the stimulus payment — which would be half of the total amount — if their adjusted gross income (AGI) is below $150,000. The same goes for spouses of people in prison who may have received the full payment permitted for joint filers.
Here’s more information about how to return your stimulus check.
Is the money from the check taxable?
What if my 2018 income qualifies, but my 2019 income doesn’t?
The IRS bases the amount of your payment on the AGI listed in your most recent tax return: 2018 or 2019. In some cases, when your income changed between 2018 and 2019, your 2018 income might qualify for a larger payment than your 2019 payment, or perhaps it might qualify for any payment while your 2019 does not.
In that case, because the IRS has extended the federal tax filing and payment deadline to July 15 (all states that tax income have also their deadlines, in most cases until July 15), you could hold off filing your 2019 income taxes until after the IRS has issued your payment, forcing the organization to use your 2018 income for your payment.
Waiting to file has a few downsides, like waiting longer to get your refund and giving identity thieves more time to try to prey on your taxes. But Riley Adams, a public accountant, previously told Business Insider if you’d qualify for a stimulus check under your 2018 income but not at all under 2019, it might be worth holding off filing for a few weeks until you get your relief payment.
What if I owe back taxes right now?
You’ll still get a check if you qualify.
These payments are treated differently than your tax refund. Typically, you can have your refund seized if you owe back taxes, but that’s not the case here. Even people with tax debt should be getting a stimulus payment if they’re under the income thresholds. The only people who could get their check reduced because of debt are parents with outstanding child support.
I got a phone call, email, or Facebook message about my check. Should I answer?
No. The US government isn’t calling, emailing, Facebook-messaging, or otherwise contacting you about your stimulus check — and if someone does, it’s probably a scam.
The IRS generally gets in contact with taxpayers through snail mail, and in the case of stimulus checks, it doesn’t need to contact you for any type of additional information. If someone is calling or emailing you to confirm personal details or asking for bank information or money, it’s a scam.
Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of this opportunity to steal people’s identities, money, or both. These scams include fake stimulus checks that arrive immediately with an unusual denomination and ask you to verify the receipt online, as well as someone claiming that paying a “processing fee” will get your money to you sooner.
What if I get my stimulus check and it’s too big?
Technically, this payment is a tax credit. A tax credit reduces your tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis. It is one of the last steps in calculating your annual tax liability and can be claimed regardless of whether you itemize your deductions. Some tax credits, like the coronavirus recovery rebate, are refundable. That means you’ll still get the money even if you don’t have enough tax liability to offset it.
There aren’t any clawback provisions outlined in the law, so you wouldn’t be expected to repay any of the money if you wind up getting too much.
What if I get my check and it’s too small?
While it won’t help you today, experts say the IRS will allow taxpayers to reconcile underpayment on next year’s tax return.
“If you should have gotten a check and didn’t, or if you should have gotten more than you did because the IRS didn’t know something important (like you have a kid), you should get more money” next tax season, Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax lawyer, wrote for Forbes.
Will there be another stimulus check?
As of now, there are no concrete plans to send out more cash payments to households, but lawmakers are pushing for it.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct the age for which an additional $500 is allotted to parents: That payment is for those who have an AGI within the phaseout range for each child younger than 17, not 16.