This week, the U.S. government sent out the first round of "stimulus checks" to the American people to help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The payments are being sent to most taxpayers in the U.S. with no expectation that they will be paid back. Still, there are plenty of finer points to understand about this historic move.
Millions of Americans are eagerly awaiting a stimulus check this week. The payments come from the Treasury Department and were approved by Congress and the Trump administration. They are meant to soften the blow to the economy caused by COVID-19 — the novel coronavirus — allowing the millions of Americans currently out of work to pay for food, housing and medical care. However, even those who have not been put out of work by the pandemic will still be given checks.
Congress assigned the IRS the task of distributing the emergency relief payments to Americans. The IRS is doing so using the banking information on file in Americans' 2018 and 2019 tax filings, so chances are you will get your stimulus check in the same manner you got your last tax return — direct deposit or a paper check in the mail.
Of course, with billions of dollars on the line, this process is not nearly as simple as it sounds on the surface. Most people have at least some follow-up questions about their stimulus check, so the basics are laid out below. Here is what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic emergency relief payments now being issued.
Who Will Get a Stimulus Check?
Simply put, the IRS is sending a stimulus check to all U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are adults and filed taxes for 2018 or 2019. The checks begin at $1,200 for individuals, and begin decreasing at the income threshold of $75,000 or more.
Americans who receive Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI) or survivor benefits will also get a stimulus check. Finally, those who receive Railroad Retirement benefits will get a stimulus check as well.
Who Will Not Get a Stimulus Check
As noted above, any individual with an annual gross income of $75,000 or lower on their last tax filing will get a $1,200 check. For every $100 over the threshold your income is, your stimulus check will be reduced by $5. So, an individual who made $75,100 in 2019 would get $1,195, an individual who made $75,200 would get $1,190, and so on. For single filers making $99,000 or more, there will be no stimulus check.
People who filed taxes jointly with a partner, claim dependents or are a head of household have slightly different rules, which are described below. Finally, people under the age of 16 will not get a check even if they filed taxes, though their guardians will get an additional $500 on their own check for claiming them as a dependent.
Who Will Not Get a Stimulus Check (cont.)
There are some big gaps in the criteria for getting a stimulus check that leave out low-income Americans. For example, adults who are still claimed as dependents on their parents' or guardians' taxes will not get a check, nor will their parents get a bonus for claiming them. In many cases, this includes full-time college students, and people with disabilities who require full-time care.
Some immigrants will not be able to get a stimulus check either, even if they are in the country legally. According to a report by NBC News, long-term residents with green cards, or H-1B and H-2A visas will not qualify for stimulus checks because they do not yet have Social Security numbers.
Finally, according to a report by ProPublica, an estimated 6 million Americans do not file taxes because they do not make enough money to need to do so. Those people will need to fill out a brand new form with the IRS in order to qualify for the $1,200 payment.
Credits for Dependents
The stimulus checks include an extra $500 for those who claim children as dependents. In the cases of parents with split custody, the last parent to claim the child on their taxes will get the credit. However, the credit will not be granted to teens ages 16 years or older, even if they are claimed as dependents.
The same goes for elderly dependents — anyone claiming a parent or a grandparent as a dependent on their taxes will not receive a check nor an additional credit for them. This is one of the biggest points of contention with the stimulus package, as many people dedicate lots of time and resources to caring for adult dependents.
For couples who file their taxes jointly, the payments and income thresholds are simply doubled. So, a couple with an annual gross income of $150,000 or less will get a stimulus check of $2,400. Another $500 will be added for each child under the age of 16 years old that that couple claims as a dependent.
For couples that do not file taxes together, a Head of Household has a higher income threshold. If they make $112,500 or less, they will get the full $1,200 stimulus check, and for every $100 they make beyond that, their stimulus check will be reduced by $5. If a couple files their taxes jointly and has an annual gross income of $198,000 or more, they will not get a stimulus check.
How to Check the Status of a Stimilus Check
About 80 million Americans had their stimulus check delivered this week through the direct deposit information from their 2018 or 2019 tax filings. Those who receive their tax returns through a paper check in the mail will need to wait weeks or months for the stimulus check to arrive. According to a report by Forbes, the IRS expects to begin mailing out checks on April 24. Checks for taxpayers with the lowest gross income will be prioritized.
The IRS has set up some new online tools for these coronavirus relief payments. There, taxpayers can add direct deposit information in the hopes of getting their payment faster, if the information was not already included in their tax filings. If you do not understand why you have not gotten your payment yet, the website may be able to help clarify for you, although there is not a status-tracking feature along the lines of some banking apps. However, the IRS reportedly intends to add a suite of new features called Get My Payment on Friday, April 17.
As a part of the urgent nature of these payments, the IRS is not deducting back taxes or most other debts from your stimulus check. The only exception to this is child support, according to a report by NBC News. Anyone who owes outstanding child support will likely see that deducted from their stimulus check before it arrives. No action is required on their part.
Finally, it is worth remembering that the $1,200 being sent to each American is only a small part of the CARES Act, passed by Congress and the Senate in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act is a stimulus package totaling $2.2 trillion, with billions going straight to the American people in the form of these relief checks.
The CARES Act also includes measures to support small businesses through this crisis, such as the Paycheck Protection Program to maintain payroll and cover some expenses while business is slow. It helps larger corporations as well, offering tax credits for companies that retain employees through the crisis and that offer them paid sick leave. A slew of other features benefit companies in the hopes of preventing an economic collapse.
Finally, the CARES Act extends aid from the federal government to the state, local and tribal governments of the U.S., as they are on the front lines of relief efforts within their communities. The full breakdown of the CARES Act is laid out on the Treasury Department's website. For all the information on your stimulus check, visit the IRS' website. For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the CDC's website.