What you need to know about tax filing and the 2020 stimulus checks

1040 tax formBelow are answers to frequently asked questions that should help people hit hard by the current crisis.

Last update October 12:

What financial assistance is the federal government sending automatically, and will I get any?

Congress’s recent CARES Act to help Americans with the financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic authorized the IRS to send one-time “stimulus checks” (what the IRS is calling “economic impact payments”) to people. Recipients must have a Social Security number. The payment will be determined by your tax filing information for 2019 (or for 2018 if you have not filed yet this year) or your Social Security income information.

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.

We support the efforts of 28 U.S. Senators, including Bob Casey of PA, to make sure Congress’s next coronavirus relief bill expands access to direct relief payments.

How much will I get?

Stimulus check amounts:

  • Taxpayers who earned up up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income will receive $1,200 checks, and $500 for each child under age 17 on 12/31/19. 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 $99,000 and married couples making above $198,000 will not be receiving the payments.

These payments are not taxable and will not be counted 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.

The payment may be offset if you have overdue child support. There are no protections to keep banks from garnishing your payment if you have delinquent loans or overdraft fees (even if the account where the IRS deposits the payment had been closed). There are also no protections from garnishment by creditors and debt collectors, though 25 Attorneys General (including PA’s Josh Shapiro) have written to the IRS urging it to address that issue.

Do I have to file a tax return to get an economic impact payment?

Yes, with two 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 file a Non-Filer tax form on the IRS website to get a stimulus payment 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 can now submit the Non-Filer tax form on the IRS website to get a stimulus payment. You can choose to receive it via direct deposit or check.

See below for our help options. You can also check out the IRS’s FAQ page about this form.

If you haven’t received your stimulus check, or haven’t received the $500 portion for your dependents, there is still time to file: 

  • Social Security, SSI and Veteran’s benefits recipients have until September 30, 2020 to complete the Non-Filers form to claim the $500 payment for their dependents.
  • Others not required to file a tax return have until November 21, 2020 to complete the same form.
  • If you don’t file by these deadlines, you will still be able to claim your stimulus payment by filing a 2020 tax return at the beginning of next year.Up to date information about the coronavirus economic impact (stimulus) payments and answers to many of your questions is available from our partners at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.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 ET M-F. If you have internet access, the helpline can assist you with completing the form. It can also answer specific questions you may have about the payments, including eligibility.

When and how will I get my economic impact payment from the IRS?

The IRS has begun distributing these one-time payments to Americans with a Social Security number. Most people do not have to take any action to receive their payment, such as those who have filed a 2018 or 2019 return or who receive Social Security or VA income. However, some Americans who normally don’t have to file a return (see the prior question) will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the full stimulus payment.

If you used direct deposit for your 2018 or 2019 tax refund, your economic impact payment should be deposited starting the week of April 13. If you received a paper check for your 2019 refund or owed money, the IRS will mail you a paper check. They expect to start mailing paper checks the week of May 4. It will take up to 20 weeks to mail out all of the checks. They will mail to the lowest income taxpayers first.

You can check on the status of your economic impact payment and which account it was deposited into on the IRS website. Social Security (SSA, SSDI and SSI) recipients should receive direct deposit payments by early May.  The IRS has not yet made determined the timeline for VA benefit recipients.

Can I speed up my payment?

Receiving your payment by direct deposit should be faster than waiting for a check. If you put direct deposit info on your tax return to receive a refund, the IRS will automatically transmit your stimulus payment that way. If you didn’t have direct deposit information on your return because you owed money or wanted a paper check, use this IRS form to enter new or updated direct deposit information, update your address, and check on the status of their economic impact payment.

Before then, if the IRS attempts to transmit your direct deposit to an outdated account, the bank will bounce it back to the IRS for a paper check. Updating your direct deposit information at that point may still speed up the re-sending of your payment.

How can I get help filing my taxes or submitting the Non-Filer tax form?

The IRS has extended the income tax filing deadline by 90 days to July 15, 2020. Tax returns and payments owed are not due until July 15. If you still need to file a 2019 tax return, Just Harvest can now provide phone assistance to Allegheny County residents as you prepare your own return on Free File through Turbo Tax or submit your info on the IRS Non-Filer system.

  • If you need to file a full return, before you get started check out these basic instructions for using Turbo Tax. To use Turbo Tax for free, your 2019 income must be under $36,000 or you must be eligible for an Earned Income Tax Credit. If this program isn’t right for you, we can help you find other solutions.

For help, give us a call at (412) 431-8960 x111 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.We are currently working on plans to directly prepare tax returns for taxpayers through an all virtual process. We will update this page when we have a secure system in place to accept your tax documents and collect electronic signatures.

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 x111 and we’ll help you determine what’s best for you. 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 x111 or send an email to taxhelp@justharvest.org). Otherwise go to www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript.

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One Response to What you need to know about tax filing and the 2020 stimulus checks

  1. Avatar
    Judith Durrah April 11, 2020 at 12:31 pm #

    Thanks for the information. It was helpful. I need to file my income taxes for 2019 when possible and I file them through Just Harvest. I’ll continue to read your posts.

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