The CARES Act kicks off a massive economic stimulus effort that, among other things, could put money directly in your pocket soon. Here’s a rundown of how much money you might get in a stimulus check (also called an Economic Impact Payment), how that IRS payment will arrive and when.
We update this page as new information becomes available.
How much is my stimulus payment?
The U.S. Treasury will disburse up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under age 17. A married couple with two kids could get $3,400, for example.
When will stimulus checks arrive? And in what form?
The CARES Act says the Treasury will get Economic Impact Payments out the door “as rapidly as possible.”
- Direct deposit: On April 11, the IRS announced on Twitter it had deposited the first stimulus payments into taxpayers’ bank accounts, adding that “we’ll continue issuing them as fast as we can.” People had until May 13 to provide the IRS with your direct deposit information if they didn’t want a paper check.
- Paper checks: Paper checks started going out the week of April 20, according to the House Ways and Means Committee. The IRS says the number of paper checks disbursed will increase sharply in May.
- Prepaid debit cards: On May 18, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it would begin sending nearly 4 million stimulus payments via MetaBank prepaid debit card instead of paper check. The card can be used online, at ATMs or anywhere Visa is accepted. People without bank information on file with the IRS and whose tax return was processed by either the Andover or Austin IRS Service Center get the cards. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the envelope will be from “Money Network Cardholder Service.” You can call Money Network at 1-800-240-8100 to check your card balance or ask questions. Note that these cards expire after three years (the bank will send the leftover money to you at that point).
- If you receive Supplemental Security Income from the Social Security Administration: SSI recipients will receive their IRS payment in early May.
Keep an eye on the IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief page for updates.
How to track the status of your stimulus check
You can track the status of your IRS payment on the IRS website:
What if I haven’t received my stimulus check yet?
You should get a letter in the mail from the Treasury (Notice 1444) no more than 15 days after it disburses the money to you. It will indicate how the payment was made, how much it was for and provide an IRS phone number if you have questions or didn’t get the money. If you received Notice 1444 but you didn’t actually receive anything, you can call the IRS and ask them to trace your payment. Alternatively, you can file IRS Form 3911 (“Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund”) If you file your tax return jointly with your spouse, both spouses have to sign the form.
- If the check wasn’t cashed, the IRS says it will send you a replacement check once the original check is canceled.
- If the check was cashed, you’ll need to file a claim with the Bureau of Fiscal Service. It will provide you with a claim package that includes a copy of the cashed check. You complete the claim package, the BFS reviews your claim and the signature on the canceled check, and then decides whether it will send you a replacement check.
What if I didn’t get the full amount?
If you qualified for the $500-per-child stimulus payment but didn’t receive that money, you may get a “catch-up payment” from the IRS in October.
How to get a catch-up payment
To receive the $500 payment you should have received weeks ago, use the IRS Non-Filers tool from August 15 to September 30 to enter information on your qualifying children. You must meet all of these conditions:
- You must have qualifying children.
- You must receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Railroad Retirement benefits; or Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefits.
- You did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019.
If you miss the September 30 deadline, you can still claim this as a credit on your 2020 federal income tax return in April 2021.
If you can’t access the non-filers tool, the IRS has instructions for how to do it on paper here.
These people may also get checks
The IRS will automatically make a payment in August to people who:
- Already used the non-filers tool before May 17, 2020, to provide information on children.
- Get Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Railroad Retirement benefit or Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefits.
If you filed or plan to file either a 2018 or 2019 tax return, you should file the tax return and not use the non-filers tool.
Who qualifies for a stimulus check?
Not everyone. There are a few hurdles.
- Single filers whose 2019 adjusted gross incomes do not exceed $75,000 are eligible for the full $1,200 stimulus payment. From that point, the IRS payment shrinks by $5 for every $100 of income, before expiring at $99,000.
- Married couples who file jointly and whose 2019 AGIs do not exceed $150,000 are eligible for a full $2,400 stimulus payment. From that point, the IRS payment shrinks by $5 for every $100 of income, before expiring at $198,000.
- Heads of household whose 2019 AGIs do not exceed $112,500 are eligible for the full $1,200 stimulus payment. From that point, the IRS payment shrinks by $5 for every $100 of income, before expiring at $136,500.
No matter your IRS filing status, the stimulus payment includes $500 for every qualifying child under 17 you might have. So even if your income exceeds the maximums above, if you have kids you might still receive some money.
Who doesn’t qualify for a stimulus check?
- Nonresident aliens. They don’t qualify for Economic Impact Payments under the CARES Act. A person who is a qualifying resident alien with a valid Social Security number is eligible only if he or she is a qualifying resident alien in 2020 and could not be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer for 2020.
- People who don’t have valid identification numbers. Everybody involved must provide a valid Social Security number or adoption taxpayer identification number (there are some exceptions for members of the military).
- Certain dependents. If you are a dependent on someone else’s tax return, you do not qualify for an Economic Impact Payment. Although parents would get $500 payments for their qualifying dependent children, this means no IRS payment for elderly or disabled adults and some students over age 16.
- People who died before the payment arrived. On May 6, the IRS issued guidance stating that those Economic Impact Payments should be returned to the IRS.
- People who are incarcerated. On May 6, the IRS issued guidance stating that those Economic Impact Payments should be returned to the IRS.
How do you get a stimulus check?
One method the Treasury is using — perhaps the fastest one — is direct deposit. And the good news is that many people have already provided the necessary bank account information to the IRS on their tax returns (IRS Form 1040).
- If you haven’t filed your 2019 tax return yet, the IRS will look to your 2018 tax return for direct deposit information, according to the text of the legislation. And if you haven’t filed a 2018 return or you’re not required to file a tax return (here are the general rules on that), it will look to information from the Social Security Administration. If you are a veteran and you’re getting compensation and pension benefits (C&P benefits), the IRS will get your information from the VA to send your payment.
- The IRS has created an online portal to get your bank info. As mentioned, if your bank details are the same as they were on your 2019 or 2018 tax return, you do not need to do anything to receive your stimulus money there. But if you don’t normally file a tax return and want to make sure your IRS payment gets to you, you can enter your bank details at the IRS’ website. Note: You have until Oct. 15, 2020, to do that.
- If you are a veteran and you have kids: If you didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019, you need to tell the IRS that you have kids so that you can get your $500 payment for each of them. You tell the IRS this by going to its online tool, but the deadline to do that was May 5, 2020.
- If you are on Social Security and you have kids: If you didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019, you need to tell the IRS that you have kids so that you can get your $500 payment for each of them. You tell the IRS this by going to its online tool, but the deadline to do that was April 22, 2020.
- If you are on SSI and you have kids: If you didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019, you need to tell the IRS that you have kids so that you can get your $500 payment for each of them. You tell the IRS this by going to its online tool, but the deadline to do that was May 5, 2020.
- Some financial institutions have launched efforts to make it easier to access your stimulus money. For example, Ally Bank is waiving overdraft fees and has forgiven negative account balances; Chime has sped up access to stimulus funds for some customers as well as raised the amount it allows accounts to dip into the red; and Cash App, a money-transfer app, is allowing stimulus checks to be deposited directly into Cash App accounts, which may be useful to customers who don’t have a traditional bank account. Check with your bank if you have questions about access.
Is a second stimulus check coming?
Congress may pass a second stimulus package that could include another set of direct payments.
Do I have to file a simplified tax return to get a stimulus check?
If you haven’t filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019, the IRS will use information from Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 to figure out what to send you. This may be the case for many senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees.
Previously the IRS had indicated that people who haven’t filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019 would need to file a simplified tax return so that it could get at least some information for calculating the Economic Impact Payment and sending it to the right place. That’s no longer the case.
Is the stimulus check a loan?
Do I have to repay my stimulus money?
No, unless you obtained your stimulus check fraudulently.
However, the IRS has noted that it may have disbursed some Economic Impact Payments in error and is asking for its money back in some cases.
- People who died before the payment arrived. On May 6, the IRS issued guidance stating that these payments should be returned to the IRS. The IRS has cancelled uncashed checks to deceased individuals as well.
- People who are incarcerated. On May 6, the IRS issued guidance stating that these payments should be returned to the IRS.
Will stimulus checks be taxed as income?
No. It’s what’s called a “refundable tax credit.”
What else should I know?
- If you owe back taxes, you’ll still get an IRS payment if you otherwise qualify. If you owe child support, however, your check will shrink. The IRS says it is working to resolve cases in which some or all of a person’s stimulus money was taken and applied to a spouse’s past-due child support. The IRS says it will automatically issue the portion that was applied to the other spouse’s debt.
- If you haven’t filed your 2019 tax return, now might be a good time if for no other reason than to make sure the IRS has your current information and bank account details.
- If you don’t qualify now, you might still get a break later. If you “made too much” in 2019, you may not get a stimulus payment now even if you lose your job in 2020. But you might be made whole later (and don’t forget about filing for unemployment in the meantime). That’s because these IRS payments are technically an advance on a 2020 tax credit that’s available all year. So if your 2020 adjusted gross income ends up being under the limit or you have a baby, you might be able to claim the tax credit (or more of the tax credit) when you file next year’s tax return.
- When it comes to the age 17 limit for dependents, the legislation leans on the existing rules for the child tax credit. Those rules say the child has to be under 17 at the end of the tax year (in this case, 2020) to qualify.
- Watch your mailbox and your bank account. You should get a letter in the mail from the Treasury no more than 15 days after it disburses the money to you. It will indicate how the payment was made, how much it was for and provide an IRS phone number if you have questions or didn’t get the money.
Is my stimulus check fake?
Many Americans who qualified for a stimulus check will receive their IRS payment via direct deposit, but some will get the money via a paper check. Here are some of the indicators banks and credit unions are using to spot fake checks.
- Check the Treasury seal. It should appear to the right of the Statue of Liberty and say “Bureau of the Fiscal Service.”
- Look for the watermark and the fine print. You should be able to see “U.S. TREASURY” on both sides of the check when you hold it up to a light. Also, there should be microprinting on the back of the check with the words “USAUSAUSA.”
- Try a UV light. There’s a pattern on the check that’s only visible with a UV light. It might say “FMS” or “FISCALSERVICE.”
- See if the ink runs. The black ink on the seal to the right of the Statue of Liberty should “run” and turn red when moisture is applied. Do not douse your check in water.
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