The massive federal legislation that was recently signed to combat COVID-19 features a huge list of items, but the program that’s arguably receiving the most attention is direct payments to individuals and families.
These stimulus checks, officially called Economic Impact Payments, have been a topic of both curiosity and controversy. Policymakers created the program to stem the economic calamity that the coronavirus reaped. But it’s possible people may not receive the money right away depending on how they filed their taxes.
In addition to combing through the IRS’ stimulus check website, St. Louis Public Radio talked with two financial experts, Washington University’s Radhakrishnan Gopalan and St. Louis University’s Henry Ordower, to get answers to frequent questions. Here’s some of the things you should know.
Who gets the money?
Any individual who makes up to $75,000 will get a $1,200 payment from the federal government. Married couples who make up to $150,000 will get $2,400.
If you claim a child as a dependent and you are within the income threshold, you will get an additional $500 per child. So, for instance: A married couple, with two children, who make $100,000 will get $3,400 from the coronavirus bill.
What happens if you make more than the income threshold?
Any individual who makes more than $99,000 and any married couple who make $198,000 will not receive money from the coronavirus bill.
If you make between $75,001 and $99,000, the payment goes down by $5 for each $100 above the thresholds. So, if you’re an individual who made $75,100 in 2018 or 2019, your coronavirus check will be $1,195.
Do you get a payment if you are on Social Security or receive disability or veterans’ benefits?
Yes. In fact, if you already received Social Security payments through direct deposits, you will receive the coronavirus payments automatically.
How do you get the money?
If you have direct deposit information on file with the IRS, you should get the funds directly deposited in your bank account.
As of Wednesday, the IRS created a portal for people that filed their taxes in 2018 or 2019 — but didn't supply their direct deposit information. To go through this process, you'll need the Social Security number you used to file your taxes. You'll also need to have your latest tax return, because the IRS will want to know your adjusted gross income from 2018 or 2019 (which is the 7th line on a 1040 form) and the refund you received in either of those years (which is detailed in line 20a on that form).
What if you don’t have direct deposit information on file with the IRS?
Then the IRS will mail you a check. And that means it may take weeks before you receive your money. The IRS plans to mail a letter about the funds to the taxpayer’s last known address within 15 days after the payment is sent.
Ordower said this arrangement presents especially big challenges to people who are homeless.
“For people who are homeless, this is really kind of an impossible situation,” Ordower said. “Because there’s no way for them to receive a check by mail, because perhaps they were using general delivery at the post office and may not have access to that.”
Is this money an advance of sorts on your tax refund you would receive in 2021 for the 2020 tax year?
Gopalan and Ordower said the coronavirus checks will not affect the refund you’ll receive in 2021. In other words, if you were due a $3,500 refund in 2021 and received $3,400 from the coronavirus bill — your refund is not going to drop to $100 next year. It will remain $3,500.
“This is clearly not part of your refund for the next year,” Gopalan said. “In other words, this does not count as income in your tax return. And so it will not go toward reducing your refund.”
What happens if I didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019?
The IRS has created a website for you to enter relevant information so you can receive your coronavirus payment.
In addition to creating an account, you’ll need to have the following information:
- Date of birth and Social Security number.
- Bank account number, type and routing number, if you have one.
- Driver’s license or state-issued ID, if you have one.
- The names, Social Security numbers or adoption taxpayer numbers for each qualifying child.
Where can I find more information about the payments?
The IRS has created a frequently asked questions page that should give you a clear picture of whether you are eligible for stimulus checks.
The IRS has also created a landing page to enter your tax information if you didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019. This page will also be the place to go if you have filed taxes in the last two years but want to include your direct deposit information. That particular service is expected to be operational in the middle of the month.
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