What you need to know about the first and second stimulus checks for your 2020 taxes

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the first two stimulus payments. Congress approved these payments in 2020 to help people through the COVID-19 pandemic.

What financial assistance did the federal government send automatically, and will I get any?

Congress passed two relief packages in 2020 to help Americans with the financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  These relief packages authorized the IRS to issue two Economic Impact Payments (EIPs), or “stimulus payments.”  The payments were determined by your Social Security income information or your tax filing information from your 2018 or 2019 tax return.  The taxpayer (and spouse) must have a social security number to be eligible.  

How much will I get?

First stimulus check amounts:

  • Taxpayers who earned up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income received $1,200 checks, and $500 for each child under age 17 on 12/31/20. The same rules apply for married couples who file returns under $150,000. Those with higher incomes received a reduced amount.
  • The IRS distributed these first stimulus payments in Spring 2020.

Second stimulus check amounts:

  • Taxpayers who earned up up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income received $600 checks, and $600 for each child under age 17 on 12/31/20. The same rules apply for married couples who file returns under $150,000. Those with higher incomes received a reduced amount.
  • The IRS sent the second stimulus payments in January 2021.

These payments are not taxable and are not 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.

While the second stimulus payment is protected from overdue child support and private debt collectors,  the first stimulus payment is not. Banks can garnish your first payment if you have delinquent loans or overdraft fees (even if the account used for direct deposit had been closed).

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

Yes. If you still have not received your $1200 or $600 stimulus payments, or the portion for your dependents, you need to file a 2020 tax return to claim them.  If your income is lower in 2020 than 2019, you may be eligible for a higher stimulus amount on your 2020 tax return.

There is still time to file! Click here for free tax preparation options. 

How will I receive my payment?

When you complete your 2020 tax return, you can choose to receive the payments by check or by direct deposit to a bank account.  Direct deposit is faster than waiting for a check in the mail, and the IRS will use the same bank account information for other stimulus payments or advance Child Tax Credit payments if you are eligible for them.

Looking for more information? 

See our pages for information on the American Rescue Plan Act and the third economic impact payment or the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC).

You can also view up-to-date EIP and CTC information from our partners at the 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 and can answer specific questions you may have about payments.

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 x212 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.

 

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