The direct payments, which will be sent out automatically to an estimated 85% of Americans, were authorized by the Democratic-controlled Congress as part of the recently passed American Rescue Plan. The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package was signed into law by President Joe Biden last Thursday.
The latest stimulus payments represent the largest amount sent out by the federal government to date (the previous ones were $1,200 and $600), but they also differ in some ways from the first two rounds that were approved last year during the Trump administration.
Payments started going out on March 12 to those who already signed up to receive their check via direct deposit. More batches will be deposited or mailed out in the coming weeks.
For the millions of others who are waiting, here’s what the IRS wants you to know.
What’s the maximum amount you can receive?
Individuals will receive up to $1,400, while married couples who file jointly will get up to $2,800. Additionally, dependents will receive as much as $1,400. (The IRS automatically calculates the amounts issued.)
Unlike the first two payments, families will get the stimulus checks for all dependents claimed on their tax returns. That includes adult dependents, such as college students and older relatives. Previously, only children under the age of 17 qualified.
However, if you’re in debt, you might not see some — or even any — of that money. That’s because debt collectors can garnish funds from the stimulus checks, something consumers were previously protected against.
Who qualifies for stimulus checks?
U.S. citizens or permanent residents are generally eligible for the full amount — provided they are not dependent on another taxpayer and have a valid Social Security number — if their adjusted gross incomes don’t exceed certain amounts. Those levels differ somewhat from the first two checks, so not everyone who qualified for those will get the third one.
The eligibility amounts are as follows:
- $75,000 for individuals (including single tax filers or a married person filing separately)
- $112,500 for those filing as head of household
- $150,000 for married couples who file a joint return or those filing as a qualifying widow or widower
Once that threshold is met, taxpayers may still be eligible to receive reduced amounts. But the stimulus checks phase out entirely for those whose adjusted gross income is over the following amounts:
- $80,000 for individuals
- $120,000 for those filing as head of household
- $160,000 for married couples filing jointly or those filing as a qualifying widow or widower
Still unsure how much you’ll get? Try this stimulus check calculator.
How eligibility is determined
Most people, including those who received the first two rounds of stimulus checks, likely won’t need to take further action to get this latest economic impact payment, as eligibility is determined based on information already available to the IRS.
The third round of payments will be issued to eligible people who:
- Filed a 2020 tax return (which is due April 15 this year)
- Filed a 2019 tax return (if the 2020 return hasn’t been submitted or processed yet)
- Didn’t file a tax return for either of those years but registered for the first stimulus check using the special non-filers portal last year
- Are, as of Dec. 31, 2020, recipients of federal benefits who don’t usually file a tax return. This group includes people who received Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, Supplemental Security Income or veteran benefits in 2020. (More information for federal benefit recipients will be provided at a date to be determined as the IRS works with the various information to update information for this year. Further details will be released at IRS.gov.)
People who didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 return, or register for the non-filers tool, can also still qualify for all three payments (provided they meet all the eligibility requirements) through the Recovery Rebate Credit. The credit can be claimed by filing a 2020 tax return. Find out how to do that here.
How to find out if the IRS is sending you a payment
The Get My Payment tool on IRS.gov allows users to check the status of their economic impact payments, including when and how the check is being sent. The tool is available in English and Spanish and is being updated with new information on a regular basis.
Where is your payment being sent?
The IRS will issue a check by mail or direct deposit based on the data the agency already has in its systems. Taxpayers will receive their check through their bank account if their direct deposit information is already on file. Otherwise, the payment will be sent by mail.
If that bank account on file is closed or no longer active, the bank will return the deposit and the individual may be issued a check instead.
Looking out for direct payments in the mail
Payment sent through the mail will come in the form of either a paper check or a debit card, the latter of which is intended to speed up the delivery to people. As the IRS noted, the form of payment may differ from the previous two rounds of stimulus checks.
The debit card, known as the Economic Impact Payment Card, will have the Visa name on the front and MetaBank, N.A. on the back. It will come in a white envelope with the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal prominently displayed. More information can be found at EIPcard.com.
For married couples, what if only one spouse has a Social Security number?
Couples who file their taxes jointly are eligible for the third payment even if only one spouse has a Social Security number, as are their family members with work-eligible Social Security numbers. However, the couple will only receive up to $1,400, not the $2,800 joint amount. Any qualifying dependent claimed on their 2020 tax return will still get as much as $1,400.
The rule is different for couples in which one spouse served in the U.S. Armed Forces at any point during the taxable year. In that case, only one valid Social Security number is needed to receive up to $2,800.
What do federal benefit recipients who don’t file taxes need to get payment?
No further action will be needed to receive a direct payment for most beneficiaries of Social Security retirement and disability, railroad retirees and those who received veterans’ benefits last year. Like the first two rounds of stimulus checks, the new payments will be sent out the same way benefits are normally paid.
But there are instances where some people receiving the automatic third payment based on their federal benefits information will need to file a 2020 tax return regardless of whether they normally don’t file one.
For instance, if your payment doesn’t include a check for your qualified dependent and that person didn’t get one, the federal benefits recipient would need to file a 2020 tax return to be considered for the additional payment.
Also, those who are eligible but didn’t get the first or second stimulus check — or got less than the full amount — may need to file a 2020 tax return to be eligible for the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit. More information on that can be found here.
What about payment notices from the IRS?
As with the two prior stimulus checks, recipients will receive a notice or letter from the IRS after they receive the payment. It should be kept for their tax records.
Are stimulus checks taxable income?
No. As with the previous direct payments, the IRS does not consider the third round to be taxable income.
Where to find more information
More information about the direct payments and other related matters can be found at the following:
- Economic Impact Payments: IRS.gov/eip
- Stimulus check status: IRS.gov/getmypayment
- Other coronavirus-related tax relief: visit IRS.gov/coronavirus