A reader from New Jersey with a family of five emailed me to say, “Just checked bank account, showing ‘IRS tax relief’ payment pending.”
The Treasury Department says 80 million Americans should receive their payments via electronic deposit by April 15.
But if you don’t see your money this week, don’t worry. It’s coming. The first payments are being automatically sent to people who filed either a 2018 or 2019 federal tax return and received a refund using direct deposit, according to Treasury. Mailed checks, to filers who gave no bank information to the IRS, will start going out before the end of April.
Individuals who receive Social Security, survivors or disability benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits will automatically receive the $1,200 stimulus payments if they are eligible. The funds will arrive as a direct deposit or by paper check, just like a regular benefit payment.
To get their payments, low-income Americans, veterans and others eligible for the stimulus funds who aren’t required to file a federal return can now use a tool the IRS launched last week. At the website irs.gov, look for the heading “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here.”
For those who have already filed a 2019 return but didn’t provide the IRS with bank information, the best way to get your money sooner is to take advantage of the agency’s “Get My Payment” feature, which is available now at irs.gov. Search for “Economic Impact Payments.”
This tool will enable you to enter your bank routing and account number to get your payment electronically, if a payment hasn’t already been sent. Because of high demand, you may find a delay in accessing the feature. To help protect against potential fraud, the tool does not allow people to change bank account information already on file with the IRS, the agency said.
So what will people be doing with their stimulus dollars?
A new poll by Gallup found that 35 percent of Americans intend to use the money to pay bills. Another 16 percent plan to purchase essential items such as food or gas. Twenty-nine percent will save or invest the funds. Smaller percentages plan to donate the checks to charity or spend on non-essential items.
The poll, conducted April 6-12, found that 13 percent of U.S. adults are not expecting to receive a stimulus payment, despite the government’s assurance that nearly every American will get one.
Under the economic relief package, individuals are due $1,200 if their adjusted gross income (AGI) is $75,000 or less. Couples will receive $2,400 if their AGI is $150,000 or less. Recipients with children under 17 get an extra $500 per qualifying child.
You’ll receive a reduced payment if your AGI falls in 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 trimmed by $5 for every $100 of income above the low end of the dollar range for your filing status. Individuals with an AGI of more than $99,000 don’t qualify for a stimulus payment. If you earn more than $136,500 and file as head of household, you likewise do not qualify for a payment. The cutoff for couples is $198,000. You also won’t get a payment if someone else can claim you as a dependent on a tax return.
The IRS says it will mail a letter to your last known address 15 days after sending your payment. The letter will explain how your payment was made and tell what to do if it doesn’t arrive.
If you don’t already have plans for how to spend your stimulus payment, here’s what I recommend:
●Spend it on necessities. If you’ve been using credit to get by, use the money to avoid piling on more debt.
●Save it. Now is the time to hoard cash. If you’re still working, start or build up your emergency fund. Your job may not be in jeopardy now, but it could be down the road.
●Don’t dump it on debt. Your credit card debt is not a priority. If your income has dropped or stopped, ask for a payment break from your card issuer. If you think you may be laid off or furloughed, just make the minimum payment due on your credit card.
●Help others. I received the following email from a reader: “I have the power of attorney for my 94-year-old mother and received notice this morning that her bank received $2,400. She is a widow. My father died in April 2018. I guess because her 2018 return is a joint one, this automatically generated the double payment. We haven’t completed her 2019 return. She doesn’t ‘need’ the stimulus [money]. I will donate both payments to a local non-profit.”
I double-checked with the IRS to determine if the money could be kept and donated. It can., and there will not be a clawback
“As long as the payment was based on the 2018 return because, for whatever reason, the 2019 return was not available to us to make the calculation, she could keep the money,” IRS spokesman Eric Smith said.
Have a question about retirement or personal finance? Join Michelle for an online Q&A every Thursday at 12 p.m. ET. Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary.