The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (Cares Act) provides economic impact payments or stimulus payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and up to $2,400 for taxpayers filing a joint tax return. The law also includes an extra $500 for each child who was under 17 at the end of 2019.
Unless Congress can agree on additional stimulus funding to help those struggling because of covid-19, the only economic relief people can expect is the money they are still waiting for under the Cares Act.
To quickly get money out to people, the IRS went back two years — to 2018 and 2019 — to pull tax returns and assess them for possible stimulus payments. What many don’t realize is the stimulus payment is actually an advanced credit for 2020.
The amount of your rebate credit or stimulus payment is based on your adjusted gross income (AGI), which is your gross income minus specific deductions or adjustments. If you filed a return but aren’t sure of your AGI, you can find it on Line 8b on your 2019 federal tax return or Line 7 on your 2018 return. Here are the income limits to receive the maximum stimulus payment:
- Up to $75,000/single or married filing separately - $1,200.
- Up to $112,500/head of household - $1,200.
- Up to $150,000/married couples filing joint return - $2,400.
Reduced payments are available if your AGI falls between the following ranges:
- $75,000 and $99,000/single or married filing separately.
- $112,500 and $136,500/head of household.
- $150,000 and $198,000/ married filing jointly.
Payments are reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$112,500/$150,000 thresholds.
The IRS has been scrambling and, in some instances, stumbling to get the payments out before Dec. 31, as the Cares Act requires. The agency is still sending out payments based on information submitted through a non-filers tool or as the result of 2019 returns that are being processed. So, it’s possible your check really is in the mail or will soon be direct deposited into your bank account.
But there are some people who just won’t get the money this year by no fault of their own.
Here are some scenarios where you may not receive your stimulus funds until 2021:
- You didn’t use the non-filers tool in time to let the IRS know you’re entitled to a payment. There could be as many as 9 million people who are eligible for a stimulus payment but haven’t let the IRS know by going online to use the non-filers portal or by filing a simplified return. The IRS has set a deadline of Oct. 15 at midnight to either file a 2019 federal return or register for a stimulus payment to get the money before the end of this year. For more information about the deadline read: For many low-income Americans, Oct. 15 is the last chance to sign up for a stimulus payment for this year.
- The IRS determined that you were ineligible for a stimulus payment based on your 2018 tax return before you filed a 2019 federal return. This may be why you keep getting a notice on the “Get My Payment” online tool that your status isn’t available. “The IRS will not reevaluate payment amounts and eligibility after a payment has been issued or if you have been determined to be ineligible,” the agency said. However, if you qualify for a payment based on your 2020 income, you can claim the credit next year.
- You didn’t file your 2019, so the IRS used your 2018 return to calculate your payment and determined you weren’t eligible for relief. The IRS began sending out stimulus payments about mid-April. But if your 2020 income dropped perhaps because you lost your job or your pay was cut you can claim the stimulus payment next year when you file your return.
- You filed your 2019 return in plenty of time or by the extended July 15 tax deadline. However, the IRS still used your 2018 return to determine your stimulus status. It’s not your fault, just bad timing. The IRS may have defaulted to your 2018 return for any number of reasons. It could even be that the agency cashed your check for the tax debt you owed for 2019. But because of a math error or some other issue with your return, it hasn’t been completely processed, thereby resulting in the IRS defaulting to the 2018 return. Not all is lost if you qualify for a payment based on your 2020 income. You just won’t get the money until next year.
- You filed a paper return for 2019 and it wasn’t processed until after the IRS used your 2018 return to calculate your stimulus payment. The IRS stopped processing paper returns around March 30 because of the coronavirus shutdowns of its offices. This caused major delays in processing paper tax returns due to limited staffing. The agency began a phased reopening in June with employees working to dig out from under a backlog of mail.
- You were claimed on someone else’s tax return but you won’t be for 2020. In this case, if eligible for a stimulus payment, you’ll receive it after you file your return next year.
- Your check was sent to an address abroad but you can’t deposit it in your foreign bank account. If you can’t cash the check, send it back to the IRS and the money will be credited to your tax account, the agency said. Unfortunately, the IRS says it can only deposit the payment to a U.S. affiliated bank account. The agency won’t reissue the money as a direct deposit. Under this situation, you’ll have to claim the credit when you file your return next year, assuming you are still eligible based on your 2020 filing, the IRS says.
Here are some scenarios where you may not get a stimulus payment at all:
- You filed your 2019 on time, even perhaps earlier this year. You qualified for a payment based on your 2019 income, but the IRS still used your 2018 return and determined you weren’t entitled to the relief funds. Your income increased during 2020 and now you make too much to get a payment. Keep in mind, the stimulus payment is an advanced credit.
- You owe past-due child support that exceeds your stimulus payment. (See the reader question of the week below for more information on this issue if you are the spouse who does not owe back child support.)
- The IRS used your 2019 return when your AGI would disqualify you for a stimulus payment and your 2020 income still won’t qualify you for a payment.
- You will still be claimed as a dependent on someone’s else return in 2020, as you were in 2018 and 2019.
(By the way, the extra $500 for dependents is only available for qualifying children under 17. So, for example, if you claim your mother on your return, you will not receive the additional $500. Nor will she get the $1,200 payment because you claim her as a dependent on your return. However, “your mom may receive a credit on her 2020 tax return if you can no longer claim her as a dependent on your 2020 tax return and she is otherwise eligible to receive the credit,” the IRS says.)
Here’s something else that may come up with your payment. Let’s say, the IRS used your 2019 return and sent a stimulus payment but you amend your return and that would have made you eligible for a higher amount. You may wonder if you can claim the difference.
Again, the IRS says it won’t reevaluate payment amounts and eligibility after a payment has been issued or you were determined to be ineligible. However, you may get the difference based on your 2020 federal return.
For more information read this FAQ from the IRS: “Economic Impact Payment Information Center — Topic B: Requesting my Economic Impact Payment.”
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Reader Question of the Week
If you have a personal finance or retirement question send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line put “Question of the Week.”
Q: My husband and I file a joint tax return. He owes back child support to his first wife. The IRS took our entire stimulus payment because of the child support arrears. I filled out an injured spouse form in July. Will I get back my part of the stimulus payment?
A: Yes, you are supposed to get a payment.
There has been a lot of confusion among a subset of stimulus recipients who filed an “injured spouse” claim over past-due child support. The Cares Act allows an “offset” or withholding for a stimulus recipient who owes back child support.
Individuals can file IRS Form 8379 to seek an “Injured Spouse Allocation” — in this case, to avoid having their half of an economic impact payment withheld. However, the IRS mistakenly offset relief payments to people who filed this form. In a news release in August, the IRS said it was automatically issuing catch-up stimulus payment checks to about 50,000 individuals whose payments were taken to pay their spouse’s past-due child support.
“The IRS is aware that some individuals did not file a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, and did not receive their portion of the EIP for the same reason above,” the release said. “These individuals also do not need to take any action and do not need to submit a Form 8379. The IRS does not yet have a timeframe but will automatically issue the portion of the EIP that was applied to the other spouse’s debt at a later date.”
Check the status of your payment by using the “Get My Payment” tool at irs.gov. Or check the IRS “Economic Impact Payment Information Center - Topic D: Receiving My Payment” for a payment date.
Retirement Rants and Raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. You can rant or rave. Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”