What you need to know about tax filing and the $600 stimulus checks

Below are answers to frequently asked questions regarding the $600 stimulus checks. Congress authorized these payments as part of its December 2020 COVID relief package.

This is the second round of payments the federal government has sent since the first round last year to provide some financial support during the pandemic. You can find complete info and rules about these payments at the IRS website or at this U.S. House of Representatives Q&A.

Who will get the stimulus checks, and how much?

Your eligibility for the $600 payment will be determined by your tax filing information for 2019, or your Social Security income information.

Like the first stimulus payment, this payment process will leave out tens of millions of people in this country:

  • 19 million young adults who were claimed by their parents on their tax forms as dependents, but who are age 17 years or older, so their parents won’t receive an allotment for them either; and
  • 11 million undocumented immigrants who don’t have Social Security numbers, their 5 million US citizen children, and 4 million immigrants who filed taxes using an ITIN.

However, unlike the first payment:

  • any undocumented immigrants’ spouses and children who have Social Security numbers will be eligible; and
  • couples that are married filing jointly can qualify for the second stimulus check, even if one spouse has an ITIN. Furthermore, these couple are now eligible for the first stimulus payment. You can get more info about this here.

Stimulus check amounts:

  • Taxpayers who earned up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income will receive $600 checks and $600 for each child under age 17 on their 2019 return. The same rules apply for married couples who file returns under $150,000.
  • Payments shrink by $5 for every $100 of income above $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for married couples.
  • Individuals who made over $87,000 and married couples making above $174,000 will not be receiving the payments.

The government will not tax these payments nor count them as income for public benefits. If you have past due debt from the IRS or student loans, your economic impact payment will not be affected.

Unlike the first stimulus payment, the government will not offset this payment if you have overdue child support, and they have protected it from garnishment by banks, creditors, or debt collectors.

Do I have to file a tax return to get a stimulus check?

Yes, with some exceptions:

  • If you normally do not file a return and receive Social Security – either Retirement Income (SSRI), Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental  Security Income (SSI) – the IRS will use your information from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to send you your payment however they typically send your SSA benefits. You do NOT need to file a return at this time.
  • Veterans and their beneficiaries who normally do not file a return and receive Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefit payments from Veterans Affairs (VA) also do NOT need to file a return at this time. The IRS will use your information from the VA to send you your payment however they typically send your VA benefits.
  • However, if you receive SSDI, SSRI, or SSI and don’t typically file a tax return BUT have a dependent under age 17, then you should have filed a Non-Filer tax form by November 21, 2020, to get the stimulus payments for any dependent children under age 17. You will receive it however you typically receive your SSA or VA benefits.
  • If you do not receive any of the above benefits and are not required to file a tax return, you needed to file the Non-Filer tax form by November 21, 2020, to get the stimulus payments.

If you haven’t received one or both of your stimulus checks, or haven’t received the portion for your dependents, you will need to file a 2020 tax return. 

  • If you did not file your taxes or use a Non-Filer tax form last year, you can still get your stimulus payment. You can do so by claiming the payment in 2021 as a tax credit.  If you need more assistance, the United Way has set up an Economic Impact Payment Helpline at 1-844-322-3639. It operates 24/7 with live agents available 10 am – 6 pm EST M-F.

How can I get help filing my taxes?

Just Harvest’s free tax assistance program for low-income households begins January 25. Learn more about completing your tax return virtually, or coming to one of our tax sites for an appointment.

I’m still confused.

Not sure whether you need to file a tax return, what type, or have questions about this process? Give us a call at (412) 431-8960, Ext. 2 or send an email to taxhelp@justharvest.org. Leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.  Our tax team is working remotely. You can also check out this helpful FAQ from the National Consumer Law Center.

Need a copy of your tax records or prior year AGI?

If we did your taxes then we can provide you with that info (412) 431-8960, Ext. 2 or send an email to taxhelp@justharvest.org. Otherwise, go to www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript.

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