By now you’ve heard that many Americans will be receiving a federal stimulus check. The idea is to give cash-strapped families some relief, while the economy falters through the pandemic.
There are a lot of questions floating around out there, about how it all will work. We’re going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions for you.
Please note that we are NOT accountants or tax professionals. The info below all comes from public sources — news reports, government websites, and so on.
If you send us specific questions about your personal circumstances, we will not be able to answer you, because we don’t know.
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Background info on the stimulus package
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law March 27, 2020. The $2 trillion economic stimulus package includes a one-time payment of up to $1,200 per person, for taxpayers in certain categories.
This stimulus payment is not taxable income. You will not owe taxes on this money. Also, a stimulus check is separate from your tax refund. If you’re due a tax refund, you will still get that if you file your return.
Who is eligible for a stimulus check?
Not everyone will get a payment through the stimulus package, although many will. You can be eligible for a stimulus payment whether you’re employed full time, part time, self-employed, unemployed or retired.
To be eligible, you must have a Social Security number or Adoption Tax Identification Number. You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
How much stimulus money will you receive?
How much money you qualify for is determined by your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your 2019 tax return — or your 2018 tax return if you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes yet.
To receive the full stimulus payment amount of $1,200 per person, your AGI must not exceed these limits, according to your tax filing status:
- Single filer, married filing separately or as a qualified widow: your AGI must be less than $75,000.
- Head-of-Household: your AGI must be less than $112,500.
- Married filing jointly: your AGI must be less than $150,000.
If your AGI is above the amounts listed above, your credit will be reduced by $5 for every $100 over the limit.
Parents will also receive an additional $500 payment for each child under the age of 17.
Americans on disability or Social Security retirement will receive the maximum amount of $1,200 per person.
H&R Block has a handy stimulus check calculator you can use to help you figure out how much you may get from your stimulus check.
What should you do to get your stimulus check?
The IRS says the money will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people.
If you filed your 2018 or 2019 taxes, you don’t need to do anything. The IRS will automatically get your money to you, in the form of a mailed check or a direct deposit into the bank account you have on file with the IRS.
If you’re receiving retirement or disability funds through Social Security, you don’t need to do anything — you’ll get a stimulus payment automatically, even if you did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019.
If you haven’t filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, file your 2018 taxes now to make sure you get your payment!
When will you receive your stimulus check?
On April 10, the IRS sent out a statement that the distribution of economic impact payments will start during the week of April 12th.
Americans with the lowest income will get mailed checks first.
Here’s the approximate timetable for the first mailed checks (note that it is subject to change):
- Taxpayers with income up to $10,000: April 24
- Taxpayers with income up to $20,000: May 1
- Taxpayers with income up to $40,000: May 15
- The rest of the checks will be issued by gradually increasing income increments each week
- Households earning $198,000, who file jointly, will get their reduced checks on September 4
The last group of checks will be sent on September 11 to those who didn’t have tax information on file and had to apply for checks.
It could take up to 20 weeks or more for a paper check to arrive. Direct deposit is faster –see the section below for a way to provide your account info to the IRS, to enable direct deposit.
How can you track your payment?
The IRS is working on building a new tool called “Get My Payment” that will allow taxpayers to track the stimulus checks.
The “Get My Payment” tool will “provide people with the status of their payment, including the date their payment is scheduled to be deposited into their bank account or mailed to them.”
It will also let eligible people submit bank information, so they can get their payment quickly through direct deposit, rather than waiting for a paper check in the mail.
“Get My Payment” will be on IRS.gov and is expected to up and running by Friday, April 17.
What if I haven’t filed my 2019 tax return yet?
You’re still okay. The deadline has been changed to July 15th, 2020.
If your income was higher in 2019 than it was in 2018, then you might want to wait as long as possible to file taxes, so that your 2018 income will be used to determine the amount of your stimulus check.
If, on the other hand, you earned significantly less in 2019 than in 2018, it’s in your best interest to file right away.
Beware of stimulus package scams
The federal government will not call or email you, or reach out via social media. Any outreach like this is likely a scam, so don’t reply, share any personal information, or send money.
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