Coronavirus and Your Money

Some College Students Can Still Get a Stimulus Check

Since the deadline is right around the corner, quick action is needed for college students who are eligible for a stimulus check.

Anyone who can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return (whether or not they're actually claimed as a dependent), is not eligible to receive a $1,200 stimulus check this year. That includes college students who are 23 or younger at the end of the year who don't pay at least half of their own expenses. Those students are out of luck.

But what about self-supporting college students? By definition, they can't be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return. So, despite what they may have heard about college students in general not being eligible for a stimulus check, self-supporting students can receive a check.

Normally, a self-supporting student will get a $1,200 stimulus check if they're single or $2,400 if they're married and file a joint return. Plus, if they have dependent children, they'll typically get an extra $500 for each qualifying child. (Use our Stimulus Check Calculator to determine how much you'll get.) That kind of money can pay for a lot of text books!

The problem is that many self-supporting college students don't file a tax return because their income isn't high enough to require one. (For 2019 returns, single people with income below $12,200 and married couples with income under $24,400 weren't required to file.) If you didn't file a 2018 or 2019 tax return, you won't get a stimulus check automatically. That's because the IRS needs information from a recent tax return to calculate and process a stimulus check.

For some people – like senior citizens and certain veterans – the IRS can get the information it needs from other sources, such as the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, for most college students, there isn't a government agency out there that will provide the necessary information if you don't file a tax return.

IRS Non-Filers Tool

Fortunately, there's an easy way for eligible college students who weren't required to file a tax return to send the IRS what it needs to issue a stimulus check payment. The IRS has a "Non-Filers Tool" on its website just for this purpose.

As the name suggests, this tool is only for people who didn't file a 2018 or 2019 tax return. However, students with income over the appropriate filing threshold or who otherwise want to file a return shouldn't use the tool. This includes any college student who had federal income tax withheld from their paycheck last year and wants to file a return to claim a refund.

To use the IRS tool, you'll have to provide your:

  • Full name, current mailing address, phone number and email address;
  • Date of birth;
  • Marital status;
  • Social Security number (and spouse's number, if applicable);
  • Bank account number, type and routing number if you want payment by direct deposit;
  • Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN), if you have one; and
  • Driver's license or state-issued ID number, if you have one.

If you want your payment faster, you can choose to receive it by direct deposit. Otherwise, you'll get a paper check in the mail. Also, two weeks after you register, you can track the status of your stimulus check payment using the IRS's Get My Payment tool.

November 21 Deadline

Here's the catch: Self-supporting college students only have until 3:00 p.m. Eastern on November 21, 2020, to use the IRS's Non-Filers tool! The tool won't be available after the deadline.

If you don't act before November 21, you can still get your money if you're eligible for a stimulus check – but you'll have to wait until next year and claim it as a recovery rebate credit on your 2020 income tax return. That return will be due on April 15, 2021.

Recent College Grads

A lot of recent college graduates didn't receive a stimulus check because they were claimed as a dependent on their parents' 2019 tax return. While that prevents them from receiving a stimulus check now, they might not be completely out of luck. These college grads may still be eligible for an equivalent recover rebate credit when they file their 2020 tax return next year. So, while they won't get paid in 2020, they will still benefit from the stimulus check program in 2021.

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