Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many of us are suddenly facing financial difficulties we never dreamt of. The federal and state responses to this pandemic, which were necessary to prevent the disease from spreading out of control, had an unintended side effect of severely disrupting our daily lives.

Throughout most of the United States, stay-at-home, self-isolation, quarantine, and similar directives have been issued to attempt to ensure everyone’s safety. These caused sudden, unplanned modifications in employment for innumerable workers. Employers have laid off employees in record numbers. Workers have been put on indefinite, unpaid furloughs. For employees lucky enough to still have jobs but are not considered “essential,” hours and/or hourly pay may have been cut. Finances are tight nationwide, through no fault of our own.

Fortunately, workers’ struggles over the past month haven’t gone unnoticed by the government. The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, includes a stimulus package that allows for many taxpayers to receive an economic impact payment (also known as a stimulus check or just “check”), based on their earnings, to assist us in these difficult times. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s statement about the CARES Act is available here.

Coronavirus stimulus payments were supposed to start being issued in mid-April, but some taxpayers already received their deposits last weekend. Here are the basics of what you can expect, broken down by filing status:

  • Single and Married Filing Separate filers: You’ll receive $1,200.00 if your adjusted gross income is at or below $75,000.00. If you earn between $75,000.00 and $99,000.00, your check will be reduced. Payments will be completely eliminated if you earned $99,000.00 or more.
  • Head of Household filers: You’ll receive $1,200.00 if your adjusted gross income is at or below $112,500.00. If you earn between $112,500.00 and $136,500.00, your check will be reduced. Payments will be completely eliminated if you earned $136,500.00 or more.
  • Married Filing Joint filers: You’ll receive $2,400.00 if your adjusted gross income is at or below $150,000.00. If you earn between $150,000.00 and $198,000.00, your check will be reduced. Payments will be completely eliminated if you earned $198,000.00 or more.
  • There will be an extra payment of $500.00 per qualifying child (under age 17) claimed on each qualifying return, regardless of filing status.

Assuming you’re eligible for a stimulus payment per the information above, be aware that there are some additional conditions you must meet in order to get a payment from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). First, you must have a valid Social Security Number (SSN). Non-resident aliens and Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) holders won’t receive stimulus payments. Also, if you add a new qualifying child to your household in 2020 (through birth, adoption, or long-term placement by a fostering agency), your payment now won’t increase; however, you should receive an additional tax credit on your 2020 income tax return. People who were claimed as dependents on someone else’s tax return for 2018, 2019, or both will likely not receive stimulus payments for themselves; however, they should receive a credit for the stimulus amount if they file their own return for 2020.

The IRS will decide who receives a stimulus check based on 2019 tax return information (if it’s been filed); otherwise, they’ll use 2018 information to make their determinations. These payments aren’t taxable, so they won’t change the result of your next year’s return. You’ll still be able to receive a tax refund next year if that’s the outcome of your 2020 tax return. 

People who aren’t required to file returns but receive Social Security, Railroad Retirement, disability, or veterans’ benefits will still receive a stimulus payment if they qualify otherwise. Although the IRS briefly discussed having people who weren’t required to file (such as many senior citizens, railroad retirees, etc.) file a “simple tax return,” which is a return that generally shows $1.00 in income, this is no longer required in order for these people to receive their check. Side note: People who aren’t required to file returns but do have a qualifying child or children may want to file a return showing these dependents, although there’s another way to address this (discussed below). 

Other important things to note: You will still receive your stimulus check even if you already owe back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. (Ordinarily, any refunds owed to a taxpayer are retained and applied toward the existing liability, but not this one!) However, if your child support payments are in arrears, your check will be intercepted and paid toward your delinquent child support. 

Here’s how and when you’ll receive your payment: If you’ve previously given the IRS your bank account’s routing and account numbers on either your 2018 or 2019 filed tax returns, you’ll get your payment direct deposited into your designated account. If you receive Social Security benefits, your payment will be direct deposited to your bank account per the information you previously provided to the Social Security Administration.

If you weren’t required to file a return for 2018, 2019, or both, you can submit your banking information through the IRS’s secure website at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here to register to have your payment direct deposited to the bank account of your choice. Through this site, you can also provide information about your qualifying child or children (dependents). Be sure you have each dependent’s SSN before you start the process.

The IRS launched a similar website, https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment, for people who didn’t previously provide banking information to the IRS to do so securely. This allows them to receive stimulus payments through direct deposit. This site can also be used to update banking information, if you want to change accounts. Be aware that if the IRS has already issued you a paper check, you won’t be able to submit your banking information, so it’s recommended to use this site as early as possible. Anybody who’s eligible for a check but doesn’t provide the IRS with banking information will automatically receive a paper check; however, be prepared for it to take a little while to get to you, as direct deposit payments are generally being issued before paper checks are mailed.

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