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It’s been about a week since Congress pushed through a new bill that will send $1,200 stimulus payments to millions of Americans.
And your questions about who is eligible for that money and how soon it could arrive keep on coming.
Individuals with adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 stand to receive $1,200 checks, while couples who are married and file jointly could get up to $2,400 if their income is below $150,000.
Those payments are gradually reduced for income above those thresholds, and phase out completely at $99,000 in income for individuals, and $198,000 for joint tax filers who don’t have children.
As a personal finance reporter, I always hope that the topics I write about resonate with readers. But this story has been much different. For each update on the stimulus checks, the questions have poured in.
Earlier this week, I compiled a list of questions and answers on what we know so far on the status of those payments.
Now, here’s another list, based on the most recent developments, and the questions you have sent.
Will I have to file a tax return to get my stimulus money?
The amount of money you receive will be computed from your adjusted gross income on your 2019 tax return. If you have not turned in your 2019 tax return yet, it will be based on your 2018 return.
However, some people may not have filed a return for either of those years. Meanwhile, others who have low income and pay very little to no taxes may have never filed.
The IRS and Treasury Department clarified this week that Social Security beneficiaries will not have to file a tax return in order to get their payments. That is because those people typically receive a 1099 form the government will use instead.
But that leaves out other individuals, such as those on Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, a federal assistance program for the elderly, disabled and blind.
Those people may have to file a basic return in order to get their cash. For now, the IRS website advises them not to do anything just yet.
“People, like low-income taxpayers and some veterans, who generally don’t file or are not required to file should wait,” the IRS states on its website.
“Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries will receive an Economic Impact Payment automatically deposited into their bank accounts, and DO NOT need to take any action,” the agency continued. “We will have more information for you soon.”
The government is said to be working on creating an online portal that will help individuals get their information to the government fast.
“It sounds like the next week to 10 days it should be formally up and running,” said Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation.
What if I need to update my income or contact information?
Right now, if you want your check to be based on new information, the best way to ensure that is to file your 2019 tax return. If you have already filed for this year, you can instead opt to file an amended return.
But beware: You need to act on this immediately if you want that information to be reflected in your stimulus money.
Try to aim to file “in the next week or so,” Watson said.
Will the stimulus money owed to me expire?
The federal tax filing deadline has officially been moved to July 15. Even past that date, you can still put in your information to get your tax rebate until the end of this year. That goes particularly for low-income individuals who don’t have 2019 or 2018 tax returns on record.
In the worst-case scenario, you may have to wait until your 2020 tax returns are filed to get the full amount of money owed to you, Watson said.
“They’re relying on 2018 and 2019 to advance the credit, and then topping off once they know what’s going on in 2020,” Watson said.
So if you had another child in 2020, or your income is lower this year, you may get stimulus money accounting for those changes with your tax refund next year.
What if I owe prior taxes?
If you owe back taxes, generally your stimulus money won’t be withheld.
But that does not apply to all situations, Watson said, such as child or spousal support payments that are in arrears, where the IRS would typically garnish money from tax refunds.
Who is excluded from stimulus payments?
While the legislation aims to put cash in the pockets of most low- and middle-income Americans, there are individuals who just won’t qualify.
Green Card holders, or anyone who is a legal U.S. resident but does not have a Social Security number, will be excluded. If you have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, from the IRS, that also does not count.
If you are an American and file taxes jointly with a spouse who does not have a Social Security number, you also are disqualified, Watson said.
Another segment of the population that is excluded are adult dependents.
The legislation calls for $500 per child. But that’s only for children under age 17, based on the definition that’s used for the child tax credit.