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WASHINGTON — The US government is sending out $1,200 stimulus checks to the large majority of adults during the coronavirus outbreak, but many are going to miss out.
Most adults with a US Social Security number will receive a payment, but Congress set restrictions on who qualifies. People who earn more than $99,000 per year will not receive any money; neither will many college students or adults who are listed as dependents on someone else’s tax return (this includes some adults with disabilities and some elderly parents). Immigrants who do not have Social Security numbers will not qualify for the payments either.
Additionally, not every person who qualifies will receive $1,200 — some will get more, some less. The payments are based on your income listed on your most recent tax return, as well as the number of child dependents you have. Still, as many as 93.6% of tax filers will receive some kind of payment, according to the Tax Foundation.
Here are the answers to many common questions about the payments:
How much money will I get?
United States residents who have Social Security numbers with income of up to $75,000 will receive payments of $1,200. For every $100 you earn above that threshold your payment shrinks by $5. Someone making $85,000, for example, will take home $700. The payments phase out entirely at an income of $99,000. You can use the Washington Post’s online calculator to see how large your payment will be.
Your income level is based on the last tax return you filed last year (for 2018 income) or this year if you've filed already (for 2019 income). If you do not normally file taxes, see below.
What if I’m married?
Both the payments and the limits are doubled for your home if you file your taxes jointly. Couples with household income of up to $150,000 will receive a $2,400 payment. At higher household income levels, the payments shrink and stop entirely at $198,000. You can use the Washington Post’s online calculator to see how large your payment will be.
What if I have kids?
Parents with children ages 16 or younger will get an additional $500 per child (as long as you’ve claimed them as a dependent on your tax returns). If you split custody, whichever parent has claimed your child on their tax returns will get the $500 benefit.
What if I’m a single parent?
Single parents who file their taxes as “head of household” have higher limits to qualify for the payments than single people without kids. Single parents who make up to $112,500 will get the full $1,200 benefit. The system then works the same way with payments shrinking by $5 for every $100 you earn above that threshold up to $136,500. You will also qualify for $500 per dependent child you have who is age 16 or younger. You can use the Washington Post’s online calculator to see how large your payment will be.
What if I have no income?
There is no minimum income threshold. Even if you make $0 you qualify for the $1,200 payment. If you have not filed a recent tax return you can send the IRS your payment information through their web portal here.
Advocacy groups are warning that many people who are unhoused may not receive payments because they do not have a Social Security number, a bank account, or a fixed address to send the payments to. At least 3.4 million people who qualified for assistance in the 2008 stimulus bill did not receive payment, and that aid had a more strict $3,000 minimum income threshold.
What if I haven’t filed my taxes in 2018 or 2019?
The best thing to do is quickly file your 2019 taxes. You can do this for free using the IRS free filing program.
How do I get the money?
If you have received a tax refund through direct deposit in the past, you don’t have to do anything, the IRS will just deposit the money into your account. Same goes for people who are on Social Security or disability (more on that below). Those payments are expected to go out as soon as the end of this week and should be in people’s accounts within two weeks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said.
If you don’t have direct deposit, the IRS will send you a physical check. But that could take time — one IRS report estimated that some people might not get payments until September, according to the Washington Post, though the Treasury Department believes it will happen faster. Paper checks are expected to start going out on April 24, starting with the lowest-income people, the Post reported
There is another option: The IRS is working on setting up a form on its website for people to fill in their direct deposit information to get that money faster. The IRS said on Friday that the form, which they're calling the "Get My Payment tool" will be live by April 17 and will allow people to input their banking information and track the status of their stimulus payment.
If you do not usually file a tax return (people who make under $12,200 do not have to file) the IRS has created another web portal for you to enter your payment information.
When will I get the money?
The Treasury Department has said that everyone with direct deposit should get the payments before April 24. Then they’ll start sending out paper checks, which could take months (see above). The IRS is launching a "Get My Payment" tool by April 17 to let people track the status of their stimulus payments.
Is the money taxable?
Nope. You’ll get the full amount you qualify for.
What about college students and young adults?
This is a big loophole in the law: Many college students and young adults will not qualify for these payments. It depends on whether your parents claimed you as a “dependent” on their most recent tax returns (whether they filed this year for 2019 or last year for 2018). If so, you will not get any money, and if you are 17 or older they won’t get $500 for you either.
If your parents did not claim you as a dependent, such as young people who entered the workforce after college, you will qualify for the payments.
What about adult dependents?
This is another of the law’s major loopholes: Any adult that you claim as a dependent on your tax returns — including adult children with disabilities living at home and elderly parents — will not qualify for the payments, and you will not get any additional money on their behalf.
What about immigrants and people on DACA status?
You do not need to be an American citizen to qualify for the payments — but you do need a Social Security number. So immigrants with green cards or certain work visas, such as the popular H-1B visa, will qualify. Temporary workers, undocumented workers, and nonresident aliens will not. The National Immigration Law Center argues that millions of immigrants who pay taxes will be cut out from receiving assistance.
Immigrants who pay taxes, but do not have Social Security numbers, will not qualify. Nor will their children, even if they are citizens, if they are claimed as dependents. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called this group a “glaring” omission and said that the center is pushing Congress to include these immigrants in future legislation to retroactively allow them to get the payments.
DACA recipients are eligible for Social Security numbers, which will allow them to qualify for payments.
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What if I’m an American working abroad?
You should still receive the payments as long as you have a Social Security number and file taxes in the US.
What if I’m on Social Security or disability?
You’ll still receive the payments, as long as you meet the income thresholds. Even if you do not typically file taxes, the IRS will send you the money the same way you normally get your benefits. However, the IRS notes that it does not have information on dependents for people who do not have to file their taxes, so in those cases, you will not get an additional $500 for dependents age 16 or younger.
What if my income has changed since I last filed taxes?
If your income goes up, your payments do not have to be paid back. Say your last tax return was from 2019 when you made $75,000 and you receive a deposit for the full $1,200. If you file your 2020 taxes with income of $100,000, you will not have to pay back the coronavirus payment, even though technically you no longer would qualify for it.
The trickier situation is when your income goes down. If you file a new tax return that shows you are entitled to a larger coronavirus payment, you will get that money, but not right away. When your next tax return is processed, the extra coronavirus money will be added.
I owe back taxes — will that be taken out?
No. The only money that will be taken out of the payments is for people who owe child support.
$1,200 isn’t going to cover it — will I get more payments in the future?
The $2 trillion coronavirus bill only authorized this onetime payment, but congressional leaders are already talking about the need to pass more stimulus packages as the coronavirus outbreak drags on. But it is too early to say what will be included in future legislation. Congress has also topped up unemployment insurance, paying out $600 per week on top of state benefits.
What if I have more questions?
The IRS has a coronavirus help page on its website and is updating information there.
This story was updated to include links to the IRS's new portal for non-tax filers to send in their payment information, as well as new information from the IRS on the upcoming "Get My Payment" tool for people to update their banking information and track their stimulus payments.