The natural disaster caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any other our nation has encountered in modern history. Its impact is severely felt across the whole of society, hitting hard and fast in a matter of days and weeks. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act delivers critically needed economic help to Americans who are facing difficult times by no fault of their own. For many individuals and households, this comes in the form of economic impact payments, which are one-time, non-taxable direct payments to U.S. citizens.
Who qualifies for a check and for how much?
Individuals with adjusted gross income (AGI) up to $75,000 a year are eligible for $1,200. Checks are reduced in amount for individuals making up to $99,000 a year. The payment amount falls by $5 for every $100 in AGI above $75,000.
Married couples are eligible for a $2,400 check if their AGI is at or below $150,000 a year. Reduced checks, on a sliding scale, will go out to married couples who earn up to $198,000. Married couples also will receive an additional $500 for every child under 17.
Those who file as a “head of household” are eligible for a $1,200 check if they earn up to $112,500. Checks are reduced on a sliding scale for heads of household earning up to $136,500 annually. Heads of household will also receive an additional $500 per child under 17.
Do I have to file my taxes to get a check?
Yes. If you filed your taxes either in 2018 or 2019 and meet the income requirements described above, you are eligible to receive a check. If you have not filed yet for 2019, the IRS will use information from your 2018 tax filing to calculate the payment. The check will be deposited directly into the same bank account as your last filed return.
Do I still get a check if I am not required to file a tax return?
Yes. The IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 to generate Economic Impact Payments to recipients of benefits reflected in the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 who are not required to file a tax return and did not file a return for 2018 or 2019. This includes senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are not otherwise required to file a tax return.
For other U.S. citizens who are not usually required to file and not described above, a simple tax return will need to be submitted to receive the payment.
How can I file the simple tax return needed to receive my check?
IRS.gov/coronavirus will provide information to guide people through how to file a 2019 tax return with simple, but necessary, information – including filing status, number of dependents and direct deposit bank account information.
How does the federal government know where to send the money?
If you have already filed a 2019 tax return, the IRS will use the direct deposit information on that return to send your payment directly to your bank account. If you don’t provide the IRS with your direct deposit details or you closed that account, the IRS will mail you a check.
If you haven’t filed a 2019 tax return yet, the IRS will look at whether you filed a 2018 tax return. The IRS will then use that information to determine whether you meet the qualifications for a check and to find your bank details or mailing address.
When will checks arrive?
The federal government is trying to get these payments out as quickly as possible, with the goal of the first payments going out by mid-April. However, the last time the federal government issued direct checks in 2008, those checks went out in batches over the course of about eight weeks.
What about people on Social Security?
If your total income does not exceed the allowed limit, Social Security recipients are eligible.
Low-income Americans on Social Security do not need to file a tax return. If you have received an SSA-1099 form (the Social Security benefit statement), the federal government will be able to send you a payment in the same way as your Social Security payment. Retirees and people on disability are both eligible for the special payment.
If I owe past taxes, will my check be reduced?
No. The only reason a check would be reduced is if past child support payments are due and the amount has been reported to the federal government.
What if my income is higher in 2020?
The federal government is referencing tax returns from 2018 and 2019 to determine who qualifies for a check. However, if you get a payment but your 2020 income ends up being higher and then merits a reduced payment or no payment, the money does not have to be paid back.