Your Second Stimulus Check: How Much? When? And Other FAQs
Here's what you need to know about the $600 second stimulus checks being sent to eligible Americans.
Over 100 million Americans have already received a $600 second stimulus check, and millions more will get one before the end of the month. That's because a new stimulus package was recently enacted (the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020) that includes a second round of direct payments. But, since a lot of different amounts and restrictions were thrown around during negotiations for the new law (and even after the law was enacted), Americans still have a lot of questions about their second stimulus checks. At the top of the list: How much will I get? And when will I get it?
Fortunately, we have answers to these and other frequently asked questions about your second stimulus check. We also have a nifty Second Stimulus Check Calculator that tells you how much money you should get (everyone's payment will be different). Read on to get the answers you need to the questions you have. Once you know more about your second stimulus check, you can start figuring out how you can use the money to your advantage.
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Number of New Stimulus Checks
Question: How many stimulus checks will I get?
Answer: As with the first round of checks, the new stimulus package only calls for one additional payment. However, some lawmakers see this latest package as a stopgap measure to provide some relief until more relief can be enacted after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. And, now that Democrats control the Senate, another round of stimulus payments seems likely. So, will there be a third round of stimulus checks down the road? It's a possibility.
Amount of Second Stimulus Checks
Question: How much money will I get?
Answer: Everyone wants to know how much money they will get. You may have heard that your second stimulus check will be for $600—but it's not that simple. That's just the base amount (which is half as much as the first round of payments). Your check could actually be much higher or lower.
To calculate the amount of your check, Uncle Sam will start with that $600 figure. If you're married and file a joint tax return, then both you and your spouse will get $600 (for a total of $1,200). If you have children who qualify for the child tax credit (they must be 16 years old or younger), you get an additional $600 for each child. So, for example, a married couple with two children can get up to $2,400.
Now the bad news. Stimulus payment amounts will be phased-out for people at certain income levels. Your check will be gradually reduced to zero if you're single, married filing a separate tax return, or a qualifying widow(er) with an adjusted gross income (AGI) above $75,000. If you're married (or a surviving spouse) and file a joint tax return, the amount of your stimulus check will drop if your AGI exceeds $150,000. If you claim the head-of-household filing status on your tax return, your payment will be reduced if your AGI tops $112,500.
Also note that the IRS, which will issue the payments, will look at your 2019 tax return for your filing status, AGI, and information about your children.
Again, we have an easy-to-use Second Stimulus Check Calculator to help you figure out the estimated amount of your check (based on your 2019 return). Check it out!
Taxation of Second Stimulus Checks?
Question: Will my second stimulus check be taxed later?
Answer: No. As with the first-round payments, your second stimulus check is actually just an advanced payment of a new "recovery rebate" tax credit for the 2020 tax year. As such, it won't be included in your taxable income.
You also won't be required to repay any stimulus check payment when filing your 2020 tax return—even if your second stimulus check is greater than your 2020 credit. If your second stimulus check is less than your 2020 credit, you'll get the difference when you file your 2020 return.
Timing of Second Stimulus Checks
Question: When will I get my second stimulus check?
Answer: The IRS started sending out $600 payments at the end of December. If you haven't received a payment yet, you will soon—if you're going to get one. That's because the new stimulus law prevents the IRS from sending any second stimulus checks after January 15. If the IRS doesn't send you a second stimulus check by that date, you'll have to claim your money as a "recovery rebate" credit on your 2020 tax return. (The IRS is expected to start receiving tax returns in late January or early February.)
If the IRS already has your bank account information—either from a recent tax return, a tax payment, one of its online tools used for first-round stimulus checks, or from another federal agency—then expect to get your second stimulus check faster. That's because the IRS will be able to directly deposit the payment into your bank account. The IRS can also make a second stimulus payment to a Direct Express debit card account, a U.S. Debit Card account, or other Treasury-sponsored account that you already have. Otherwise, you'll get a paper check or a prepaid debit card in the mail. (If you received debit card for your first stimulus payment, it doesn't mean you'll automatically receive debit card for your second payment. Likewise, if you received a paper check for your first payment, you could receive a debit card for your second payment.)
You can track the status of you payment using the IRS's "Get My Payment" tool. In addition, you can see how you'll get paid (paper check/debit card or direct deposit) and get an estimated delivery date. However, unlike with the first round of stimulus checks, you can't enter your bank account information to have your payment directly deposited into your account.
Closed Bank Account
Question: What if the IRS sends a direct deposit payment to a closed bank account?
Answer: If your second stimulus payment was sent to an account that is closed or is no longer active, the bank or other financial institution is required by law to return the payment to the IRS. They can't hold the payment and redirect it to you.
This happened to a number of people who used do-it-yourself products from H&R Block, Turbo Tax, and other tax software providers to file their 2019 tax return. In some cases, those people had their second stimulus payment deposited into an intermediary bank account that was used to process their 2019 tax refund. The software companies are working with the IRS to fix this problem, so these people should eventually get paid.
However, other people who have their stimulus payment sent to a closed or inactive bank account will have to claim their second stimulus check as a "recovery rebate" credit on their 2020 federal tax return. If that's the case, you should file their 2020 return electronically and sign up for direct deposit of any refund due to get your payment as quickly as possible.
People Who Didn't File a Tax Return
Question: What if I didn't file a 2019 tax return?
Answer: Some people didn't file a tax return for the 2019 tax year because their income didn't reach the filing requirement threshold. (Americans with income under $12,200 for single people or under $24,400 for married couples weren't required to file a 2019 tax return.) However, if you receive benefits from the Social Security Administration, Railroad Retirement Board, or Veterans Administration, the IRS will get information from those federal agencies to calculate the amount of your second stimulus check if they don't have a 2019 tax return with your name on it. In addition, if you received a first-round stimulus payment after using the IRS's "Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here" tool, a second stimulus payment will automatically be issued to you based on the information you provide through the tool.
However, even if you don't get a check now, you won't lose out on the money—you'll just have to wait until you file your 2020 tax return to get it. As we already noted, the checks that will be sent now are really just advanced payments of a new 2020 tax credit. So, if the IRS doesn't send you a second stimulus check by January 15, 2021, you can claim it as a refund or reduction of the tax you owe when you file a 2020 tax return. (You'll have to file your return, or request an extension, by April 15, 2021.)
Notice of Payment
Question: Will I receive a notice from the IRS about my payment?
Answer: Yes, the IRS will send you a notice, or letter, about your second stimulus payment. The tax agency will provide an update on the timeline for delivery of the notices when one is available.
Keep your notice—formally called Notice 1444-B—with your tax records. You'll need it (along with Notice 1444 that was sent for your first-round stimulus check) to complete the "recovery rebate" credit worksheet for your 2020 tax return.
Children Born in 2020
Question: What if I had a child in 2020?
Answer: Unfortunately, if you had a child in 2020, you won't get an additional $600 in your second stimulus check for him or her. That's because your new bundle of joy wasn't claimed as a dependent child on your 2019 tax return. You can, however, get an additional $600 recovery rebate credit for your new baby on your 2020 tax return.
Children Turning 17 in 2020?
Question: What if my child turned 17 in 2020?
Answer: If you filed a 2019 tax return and claimed your child as a dependent, you'll get an extra $600 added to your second stimulus check for that child—as long as your son or daughter qualified for the child tax credit in 2019 (i.e., was 16 years old or younger).
And don't sweat it if your child turned 17 in 2020 and, therefore, won't qualify for the child tax credit on your 2020 return. You won't have to pay back the extra $600.
College Students and Young Adults Living at Home
Question: Will college students and young adults who live with their parents get a second stimulus check?
Answer: Anyone who can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return (whether or not they're actually claimed as a dependent) won't receive a second stimulus check and can't claim the recovery rebate credit on their 2020 tax return. That means no payments to children living at home who are 17 or 18 years old, or to college students who are 23 or younger at the end of the year who don't pay at least half of their own expenses.
Other dependents won't receive stimulus payments, either. For example, an elderly parent living with you is out of luck and won't get a check.
Question: Will "nonresident aliens" get a second stimulus check?
Answer: Nonresident aliens are not eligible to receive a second stimulus check. Generally, you are a nonresident alien if you're not a U.S. citizen, you don't have a green card, and you're not physically present in the U.S. for the required amount of time. A nonresident alien who receives a stimulus payment must return it to the IRS. For more information on nonresident alien status, see IRS Publication 519.
(Trusts and estates aren't eligible for second stimulus checks, either.)
Social Security Numbers
Question: Do I have to have a Social Security number to get a second stimulus check?
Answer: In most cases, you must have a Social Security number to receive a second stimulus check. Generally, your spouse and any child you're receiving an extra $600 for must also have a social security number. An individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) is not good enough.
There are a few exceptions to this rule:
- An adopted child can have an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) instead of a Social Security number;
- For married members of the U.S. armed forces, only one spouse needs to have a Social Security number; and
- If your spouse doesn't have a Social Security number, you can still receive a second stimulus check, including any extra money for qualifying children, if you have a Social Security number.
The last exception wasn't available for the first round of stimulus checks under the CARES Act. However, in addition to adding the exception for the second round of payments, the COVID-related Tax Relief Act makes the exception retroactive to the first stimulus check payments. As a result, if one spouse has a Social Security number, he or she can claim up to $1,200, plus an additional $500 for each qualifying child, as a recovery rebate credit on their 2020 tax return if they were denied a first-round payment because they both did not have a Social Security number.
Also note that a valid Social Security number for stimulus check purposes is one that is valid for employment in the U.S. and is issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) before the due date of your 2019 tax return (including the filing deadline postponement to July 15 and an extension to October 15 if you requested it). If you were a U.S. citizen when you received your Social Security number, then it's valid for employment. If "Not Valid for Employment" is printed on your card and your immigration status has changed so that you're now a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, ask the SSA for a new card. However, if "Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization" is printed on your Social Security card, you only have the required Social Security number only as long as the Department of Homeland Security authorization is valid.
Back Taxes, Child Support or Other Debts
Question: Can the IRS or other creditors take my second stimulus check if I owe back taxes, child support or other debts?
Answer: Your second stimulus check is not subject to reduction or offset to pay back taxes, child support, or other debts owed to the federal or a state government. (If you owed child support, the IRS could use first-round stimulus check money to pay arrears.)
In addition, second-round stimulus checks aren't subject to garnishment by creditors or debt collectors. They can't be lost in bankruptcy proceedings, either. The IRS will also have to encode direct deposit payments so that banks know they cannot be garnished.
Question: Can a dead person get a second stimulus check?
Answer: For the second round of stimulus checks, anyone who died before January 1, 2020, is not eligible to receive a payment. Essentially, they're treated as if they don't have a Social Security number. If you filed a joint return in 2019 and your spouse died before 2020, you won't receive a $600 payment for your deceased spouse, but you'll still be issued up to $600 for yourself and $600 for any qualifying children if all other eligibility criteria are met.
The extra $600 per qualifying child is off the table, though, if a single parent died before 2020 or, in the case of a joint return, both parents died before then.
With regard to eligible individuals who died in 2020, the "recovery rebate" credit may be claimed on the decedent's 2020 federal income tax return.
Much to its embarrassment, the IRS sent over 1 million first-round stimulus payments to dead people. At first, the IRS asked the deceased person's family members to return the money. Then the tax agency started cancelling uncashed checks sent to deceased people. Unfortunately, that meant some joint stimulus checks sent to both the living spouse and the deceased one were cancelled, too. Fortunately, the IRS reversed course and sent payments to the surviving spouse.
The new law lets the IRS tap into information held by the Social Security Administration that should cut down the number of second-round stimulus checks being sent to people who have passed away. Still, it might happen again, and the IRS may ask for the money back, again.
Question: Can a person in jail or prison get a second stimulus check?
Answer: Yes. There's nothing in the COVID-related Tax Relief Act that prevents incarcerated people from receiving a second stimulus check. If they're otherwise eligible, they will receive a second stimulus check or will be able to claim a recovery rebate credit like anyone else.
There was nothing in the CARES Act to prevent first-round checks to inmates, either. However, the IRS initially deemed them ineligible for a payment. That decision was challenged in court…and the IRS lost.
Stay on Top of Stimulus-Check Developments
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See some of our other coverage of the second stimulus check:
- Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer
- 6 Reasons Why Your Second Stimulus Check Might Be Delayed
- 10 Things Social Security Recipients Need to Know About Their Second Stimulus Check
- When Will Your Second Stimulus Check Arrive? It May Already Be On Its Way
- Who's Not Getting a Second Stimulus Check (Not Everyone is Eligible!)
- How Your Second Stimulus Check Will Differ from the First One
- Will College Students Get a Second Stimulus Check? (Hint: It Depends!)