Did your income drop in 2020? Have a baby? You could be eligible for more economic stimulus money from Washington – quickly.
You can claim it as part of your new tax return.
The 2021 filing season began Friday, and two stimulus payments are in play.
One is the first round, approved in March, that provided $1,200 per qualifying adult and $500 per child. Individuals with adjusted gross incomes of up to $75,000 and couples who made $150,000 in 2018 or 2019 could get a full benefit. The benefit phases out as incomes get higher.
Next was the second round, approved in December, for $600 per qualifying adult or child. Income limits for the full payments were the same, but the benefit phased out at lower levels.
But the COVID pandemic and the economic recession it triggered sent unemployment surging and incomes tumbling in 2020.
So, the Internal Revenue Service says that a lower income in 2020 could make you eligible for the stimulus payments approved last year. The way to claim the benefit is on the tax form via the Recovery Rebate Credit.
Claudia Stanley, a certified public accountant in Fresno, has found that consumers’ first concern is whether the stimulus payments are taxable (they’re not). Then there’s confusion about timing and amount of their payment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions and answers from the Stanley, IRS and the nonpartisan Tax Foundation.
Q. I had an adjusted gross income of $120,000 in 2019. I lost my job in 2020 and wound up making $40,000. How do I get last year’s stimulus payments?
A. Go to the main federal tax form, Form 1040 and look for Line 30, the Recovery Rebate Credit. The credit – which is the stimulus payment – will be based on information you provide about your 2020 income.
“Generally, you are eligible to claim the recovery rebate credit if in 2020 you were a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien, weren’t a dependent of another taxpayer, and have a valid Social Security number. This includes someone who died in 2020, if you are preparing a return for that person,” the IRS advises.
Q. How do I know how much I could get?
A. Go the recovery rebate worksheet the IRS provides as part of the instructions for its tax form. The worksheet is roughly in the middle of the instructions. EIP1 on the worksheet is the first round of stimulus payments. EIP2 is the second.
Q. If I had a baby, or adopted a child, last year can I claim stimulus funds?
A. Yes, as long as you meet the income requirements and the child is under 17.
Q. What about children who were no longer dependents last year?
A. They may be able to claim stimulus funds on their own, even if they were claimed as dependents on 2018 and 2019 returns.
Q. I got stimulus payments last year, since I was under the income limits in 2019. But I made too much money in 2020 to qualify. Do I have to repay any of the stimulus?
Q. I did get some stimulus money, but because my income dropped in 2020 I should be able to get more. Do I subtract what I’ve already received from my new amount?
A. Yes. You do that by using that tax worksheet.
Q. I normally don’t file a tax return, but qualify for a payment. What do I do?
A. “If you’re eligible for the credit, and either we didn’t issue you any Economic Impact Payments (stimulus money) or we issued less than the full amounts, you must file a 2020 tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit,” the IRS advises, “even if you are not required to file a tax return for 2020.”
Q. How do I know how much more money I’m entitled to receive?
A. “We figure what they likely received based on their 2019 or 2018 return and ask them to check their bank records,” Stanley said.
IRS provides an indication of when each stimulus payment was issued. But, Stanley warned, “we’ve come to realize that if they didn’t get a second payment, IRS doesn’t make that disclosure at its site, but rather says it can’t be determined.”
Q. There’s talk that a new round of stimulus checks could be on the way. When? And how do I know if I qualify?
A. Congress is moving fast to approve President Joe Biden’s plan to send $1,400 payments to people who qualify. So far, income limits before the phaseout would remain the same. Congress hopes to pass the measure by mid-March, and since the IRS has a system in place for distribution, the first payments could be going on via direct deposit soon after that.