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There’s still a lot of confusion about how to register for and track stimulus checks on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. There are two tools, the non-filer tool and the Get My Payment tool, available on the website. The IRS has issued some additional guidance which clarifies how the tools can be used. Here’s how to tell which to use:

If you filed a federal income tax return for 2018 or 2019 and the direct deposit information for your tax refund is correct, you do not need to take additional steps. 

  • You can use the Get My Payment Tool to track the status of your check once the IRS has processed your tax return.

If you filed a federal income tax return for 2018 or 2019 and the direct deposit information for your tax refund is not correct, your check will go to the account number you included on your return. If the account is no longer active, the IRS will mail your check to your address of record (the address on your last tax return). You cannot update bank account information after your check has been scheduled for delivery, and you cannot change bank account information already on file with the IRS.

If you filed a federal income tax return for 2018 or 2019 and you owed tax or didn’t choose direct deposit for your tax refund, you may be able to use the Get My Payment Tool to provide direct deposit account information once the IRS has processed your return. If the tool doesn’t offer you the option to provide your account information, it means the IRS will mail your check. 

  • You can use the Get My Payment Tool to track the status of your check once the IRS has processed your tax return.

If you have not filed a federal income tax return for 2018 or 2019 but you expect a tax refund, you need to file your 2019 individual tax return electronically (paper takes much longer to process). If you choose direct deposit for your refund, your stimulus check will be sent to that account; if you do not choose direct deposit, you may be able to use the Get My Payment Tool to provide account information after the IRS has processed your return. If the tool doesn’t offer you the option to provide your account information, it means the IRS will mail your check. 

  • You can use the Get My Payment Tool to track the status of your check once the IRS has processed your tax return.

If you have not filed a federal income tax return for 2018 or 2019 but you expect to owe tax, you need to file your 2019 individual tax return electronically (paper takes much longer to process).You may be able to use the Get My Payment Tool to provide direct deposit account information after the IRS has processed your return. If the tool doesn’t offer you the option to provide your account information, it means the IRS will mail your check. 

  • You can use the Get My Payment Tool to track the status of your check once the IRS has processed your tax return.

If you are not required to file a federal income tax return for 2018 or 2019 and you receive Social Security retirement, SSI, disability (SSDI), or survivor benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you don’t need to do anything. The IRS will direct deposit or send your check where you usually receive your benefit. The check will not affect your benefits.

  • In the future, you can use the Get My Payment Tool to track the status of your check. However, if you are an SSA or RRB Form 1099 recipient or SSI benefit recipient, your information is not yet available using the tool.

If you are not required to file a federal income tax return for 2018 or 2019 and you do not receive Social Security retirement, SSI, disability (SSDI), or survivor benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you need to use the Non-Filer tool. Entering your bank account information will allow the IRS to deposit your payment directly into your account. Otherwise, the IRS will mail your check. 

  • You can use the Get My Payment Tool to track the status of your check once the IRS has processed the information you entered in the Non-Filers tool.

As a reminder, only U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and resident aliens may be eligible for a check (non-resident aliens are not eligible). You must have a valid Social Security number (not an ITIN). Additionally, you will not receive a check if you are a dependent – even if you file a separate tax return.

And one more thing: the stimulus check is NOT taxable and will not affect your 2020 refund. 

Checking in with the tools multiple times won’t give you a different result. According to the IRS, data on the tools is updated once per day overnight, so there’s no need to check back more than once per day. 

Things are happening at a rapid-fire pace these days. As tax updates become available, we’ll keep you updated. Keep checking back for details.

(Update: On April 17, 2020, the IRS confirmed that vets would also receive their checks automatically.)

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has confirmed that recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will automatically receive automatic Economic Impact Payments (that’s the official name, although most taxpayers refer to them as stimulus checks).

The move required coordination among the Social Security Administration (SSA), Department of the Treasury, IRS, and the Bureau of Fiscal Services (BFI).

“Since SSI recipients typically aren’t required to file tax returns, the IRS had to work extensively with these other government agencies to determine a way to quickly and accurately deliver Economic Impact Payments to this group,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Additional programming work remains, but this step simplifies the process for SSI recipients to quickly and easily receive these $1,200 payments automatically. We appreciate the assistance of SSA and the Bureau of Fiscal Services in this effort.”

Here are a few more details: 

What do SSI recipients have to do? SSI recipients will receive checks without needing to take further action. 

When can SSI recipients expect a check? Payments should go out no later than early May.

Who is sending the checks to SSI recipients? IRS, not SSA.

How will I receive my payment? You should receive payments by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or by paper check, just as you usually receive your SSI benefits. Yep, I did say Direct Express (I’ve been asked about those a lot).

What about senior citizens who rely on Social Security retirement? Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return will have their checks deposited directly to their bank account.

What about SSDI benefits? According to the IRS, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients also don’t need to take additional action: your check will be direct-deposited (or you’ll get a paper check) just as you’d typically get your benefits.

What about Veterans Affairs benefits? No. No change. That’s right, nothing from Congress to help out vets – but I’ll keep you posted.

What about Social Security, Railroad retirees, and SSDI beneficiaries who have qualifying children? You can take an additional step to receive $500 per qualifying child. If you receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits, or SSI and have a qualifying child, you can quickly register. If you enter your information now, you can receive the additional $500 per dependent child payment. If you don’t provide your information soon, you will have to wait until later to receive the $500 per qualifying child.

What if my children have Direct Express cards? According to the IRS, additional information will be available soon regarding the steps to take on the IRS web site when claiming children under 17 with Direct Express.

Is this payment taxable? It is NOT taxable and will not affect your 2020 refund. 

I’m still worried: will it affect my benefits? No, it will not affect your benefits.

Things are happening at a rapid-fire pace these days. As tax updates become available, we’ll keep you updated. Keep checking back for details.

As COVID-19 continues to impact the United States, the federal government is taking action to ease the burden on taxpayers. Most recently, as part of the CARES Act, the Treasury Department is sending out stimulus checks to most (but not all) Americans. Those stimulus checks are starting to hit bank accounts now, which is offering relief for some taxpayers – and anxiety for others.

One question that I haven’t addressed in detail until now is what happens if your refund was tied to a refund anticipation loan (RAL), refund anticipation check (RAC), or similar product. In those events, refunds are not usually directed to your bank account, but rather to an account managed by a third party (like a lender or preparer). The question, of course, is how to make sure that money gets to you – as the taxpayer – and not to the third party.

My guess was that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would ignore those refund accounts for purposes of reaching taxpayers.

Today, the new National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins confirmed that to be the case. Writing in her NTA blog, she notes that, “When a taxpayer purchases a RAL or RAC, a virtual bank account is established solely for purposes of receiving the refund and facilitating the transaction. The account does not continue to exist, and therefore Economic Impact Payments delivered to virtual accounts by direct deposit would not reach the intended recipient.”

(You can read more about Erin Collins here.)

Worrisome, right? Fortunately, the IRS has been down this road before. As Collins points out, those tax returns have an electronic indicator. That means that the IRS can identify you and make sure that payments are not delivered to those virtual accounts used to file the return.

If the tax returns also transmitted your underlying bank account information of the taxpayer, the IRS may be able to direct deposit refunds into your regular bank account. If that’s not possible – and the IRS doesn’t have your information on file – they’ll send your check by mail.

If you haven’t filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 – did not have to file – you can register for your stimulus payment with the IRS. If you did file a return, but the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit info (because, say, you owed instead of got a refund), you can register for your stimulus payment with the IRS.

As I’ve previously reported, folks who rely on Social Security retirement or disability benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits who are not typically required to file a tax return will receive their payment directly to their bank account.  

If someone else claimed you on their tax return, you will not be eligible to receive a check.

If you don’t know the status of your check – or you think you’ve done something wrong – hang tight. The IRS is not answering calls right now, and correspondence is limited. The IRS does ask that you do not file a second return if you are still waiting for your return to be processed (that could slow you down even more).

Finally, keep in mind that the payment is NOT taxable and will not affect your 2020 refund. 

(Updated April 15, 2020: The new tool is up. More info in this story here.)

Okay, I get it. I’m not brief. I’m a wordy girl. I like to be thorough. I’m a middle child and a lawyer: you do the math.

I recently posted about a new web tool from the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that allows those who don’t usually file a tax return to register for Economic Impact Payments (EIPs, or stimulus checks). That tool, developed in partnership with the Free File Alliance, is available on IRS.gov. The tool is based on Free File Fillable Forms, part of the Free File Alliance’s offerings of free products on IRS.gov.

Again, that tool is for non-filers.

But what about folks who just want to provide their bank account information so they can receive their payment more quickly rather than waiting for a paper check? 

I addressed that, too… but it was at the very bottom of the piece. Some of you didn’t make it that far (no worries, I get it).

To clarify, the IRS is building a second tool. That tool, Get My Payment, is expected to be available by April 17. It will:

  • Provide you with the status of your payment, including the date your payment is scheduled to be deposited into your bank account or mailed; and
  • Allow eligible taxpayers a chance to provide bank account information to receive payments more quickly rather than waiting for a paper check. This feature will be unavailable if the Economic Impact Payment has already been scheduled for delivery.

Entering bank or financial account information will allow the IRS to deposit your payment directly into your account. Otherwise, your payment will be mailed to you as a paper check.

Keep in mind that the payment is NOT taxable and will not affect your 2020 refund.

Checks will be distributed automatically to most people starting next week – though I’ve heard reports of payments already hitting bank accounts this week.

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for 2019 or 2018 will receive the payments automatically. As I’ve previously reported, automatic payments will also go out shortly to those receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits.

Things are happening at a rapid-fire pace these days. Keep checking back for details.

(Updated: April 16, 2020)

Many of you have written in to ask questions about stimulus checks. As of yesterday, I think I’ve replied to more than 900 of them… and still sorting through (please be patient).

I’ve also written a bunch of pieces addressing some of the most commonly asked questions. If you have questions, check out some of these articles. You might get your answers faster by reading.

General Questions

Bank Account Info & IRS Tools

Social Security, SSI, SSDI, RRB

Dependents

Timing

Hoaxes & Scams

If you still have questions, trying asking me – click here to find out how.

*Please don’t leave your questions in the comments. There may be privacy issues (since comments can be made public) AND if they require approval, it might take me a bit to see them. It’s faster to use the link above!

Thanks for reading!

(Updated: April 20, 2020)

Last month, I wrote a primer on stimulus checks, and I’ve been updating it as I field your questions: thanks for asking!

I thought it might be helpful to tackle some of the most commonly asked questions in a separate article. Here’s what you’ve been asking – along with my answers – regarding those tax stimulus checks.

How big will my check be? Checks will be $1,200 per adult – or $2,400 for married couples filing jointly – and an additional $500 per child.

But I didn’t work last year – or I am a senior on a reduced income – I thought I was left out? Or that I got a smaller amount, like $600? No. One of the original Senate proposals did include language that would limit checks for low-income Americans to earned income or $600. This is no longer the case. There is no minimum income needed to qualify for a check.

But if I don’t normally file taxes, how do I get a check? You may need to register with the IRS to get your check using the Non-Filer Tool on the IRS website.

Are there income limits on checks? The amount of the checks would start to phaseout for those earning more than $75,000 ($150,000 for joint returns and $112,500 for heads of household) and are subject to phaseouts (more on those here). This is adjusted gross income (AGI), not taxable income – so before your standard or itemized deductions. You’ll see your number on line 8(b) of your form 1040:

As a senior citizen, my only source of income is Social Security benefits, so I haven’t filed taxes for 2018 or 2019. I read that to receive the stimulus money, I must file 2019 taxes. Is that true? The short answer is no, you don’t have to file a return.

What about SSDI benefits? According to the IRS, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients don’t need to take additional action: your check will be direct deposited (or you’ll get a paper check) just as you’d normally get your benefits.

What about SSI or VA benefits? A group of 45 Senators reached out to request that Treasury provide stimulus payments automatically to recipients of benefits through the Veterans Administration or the Supplemental Security Income program, without requiring them to file a tax return. That is now the case.

What about Social Security, Railroad retirees, and SSDI beneficiaries who have qualifying children? You can take an additional step to receive $500 per qualifying child.

You wrote that I couldn’t get a check for my child who is in college because of his age, even though I claimed him as a dependent. He works. Can he get his own check? Not if your child is a dependent (you can read more here). There is a suggested fix in the works to change this, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen in time.

My mom is a senior citizen, and I claim her as a dependent. Can I get a check for her? Unfortunately, no. For purposes of getting the extra $500, the bill uses the same definition as you’d use for the child tax credit. The sticking point for most is age: the child must be under age 17 at the end of the tax year. That means you do not get $500 for a child above the age of 16, even if they live with you and eat your food and spend your money and sleep in your house. The same is true for adults.

Okay, if I can’t get the $500 for my mom since I claim her as a dependent, can she get a check? Not if she is a dependent.

I made more money in 2019 than in 2018. Can I wait to file my 2019 return? Of course! Remember that filing and payment dates have been automatically extended for federal income tax returns to July 15, 2020.

I’ve already filed my 2018 and my 2019 tax returns. Is there an office I can contact to make an appeal to have the decision made on my 2018 return and not 2019 return? I’d be shocked if you could reach anyone at IRS right now, and there’s no mechanism for an appeal so far as I know – and an appeal would be contrary to the language in the Act. Since the credit is technically based on your 2020 return (which hasn’t been filed yet, which is why they are looking at 2019), if you qualify for the 2020 tax year, you can still apply for it in 2021. All is not lost!

I had a kid in 2020. Will I get a check for my child in 2020? Probably not in 2020 since the IRS doesn’t know about your new delivery. But again, since the credit is technically based on your 2020 return, you should be able to adjust to account for the new baby in 2021.

My income is going to be higher in 2020, but I got my check based on my 2019 income, which was lower. Do I have to pay it back? There is no clawback provision in the law, so it should be treated as a math error in your favor if you got too much. You don’t have to pay it back.

Is my check taxable? No. This is not taxable income.

Are you sure it’s not taxable? What about messing up my benefits? Or my FAFSA? Yep, sure it’s not taxable. It won’t boost your income and won’t affect your benefits.

Are you sure that I don’t have to pay it back? I read that somewhere that it’s an advance and I do have to pay it back. Or that it will reduce my refund. You will not have to pay it back. It is an advance, but it’s an advance of a new, temporary credit for 2020. It will not affect your “normal” refund in 2020. The only folks who should see a difference are those who didn’t get the advance this year but were due one – they’ll get more since they’ll get the credit in 2021 (for the 2020 tax year).

When will I get my check? Checks are supposed to be produced “as rapidly as possible.” Checks went out the week of April 12, 2020. If you use direct deposit, you’ll get your money faster.

I’ve read that some checks won’t be available until September. How is that possible? Taxpayers who have direct deposit information on file will receive their checks first. Of course, not all taxpayers have current direct deposit information on file so the IRS plans to develop a web-based portal for those individuals to provide their banking information online – but that portal is not up and running yet. If the IRS mails out paper checks, those take longer to process. You can read more here.

I’ve heard that some people got their checks weeks ago. Is that true? Not unless they can time travel.

Can I get my check faster if I pay for it? No, that’s a scam. You can find out more about scams and hoaxes related to stimulus checks here.

Will I still get the check if I owe the IRS some money? Yes. If your refund would normally be seized to pay a tax debt, that shouldn’t happen here. The law says no offsets for existing federal tax debts.

What about if I am on an installment plan? Same result: the law says no offsets for existing federal tax debts.

What if my check is usually seized for child support? The law says that checks won’t be levied or offset, but there is an exception for child support. Under the law, your check can be seized or taken for if you owe back child support.

I’ve seen so many versions circulating on the internet. Where can I find the actual text of the law? Here’s the link. And here’s a tip: When verifying a law, rule or similar, look for government sources, including official websites.

What does the IRS have to say about all of this? The IRS has confirmed some of this information and will eventually post more information on its website.

Can I call them and ask? The IRS asks that you not call.

What about you? Please don’t call me either (my kids would likely be in the background asking to be fed again). But I’m happy to answer your questions: here’s how to ask.

Whenever my kids want to know when I’m going to do something, I often answer, “Two minutes.” We both know it’s a lie, but if I have no real idea how long it will take, and they want an answer, any response keeps everybody happy.

I suspect that we’re getting to that same place from the government when it comes to those stimulus checks (also called economic impact payments). Last month, I reported that checks were supposed to be produced “as rapidly as possible.” Treasury Secretary Mnuchin hinted they would come this month (April), but it had been suggested that checks could take even longer: up to two months. Now, reports indicate that checks could take twice that long to land in the pockets of some Americans.

Mnuchin reported at today’s White House briefing that stimulus checks would be going out within two weeks to taxpayers whose direct deposit details are on file. That should represent payments to about 60-70 million taxpayers.

And, unlike earlier reports, Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have confirmed that Social Security Administration beneficiaries who do not file returns, will not need to file anything further to receive their rebate. Recipients will receive their stimulus check in the same manner as they do their benefits – mostly by direct deposit.

The IRS is also encouraging folks who have not filed a 2018 or 2019 to do it soon (and don’t forget to include your direct deposit banking information on your return).

Taxpayers other than those receiving SSA benefits who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive a check: the IRS expects that this return would only have a few questions, including name, Social Security numbers, dependents, and deposit information (I’ve heard it compared to the now-defunct Form 1040EZ). That return – and further guidance – is not yet available from the IRS.

Of course, not all taxpayers have current direct deposit information on file. According to the IRS, the Treasury plans to develop a web-based portal for those individuals to provide their banking information online. But that portal is not up and running yet. And Mnuchin has not provided a timeline for making it available. Reports suggest that it would be made available at the end of April or early May.

A memo from the House Ways and Means Committee – based on conversations with Treasury and IRS – has suggested that timelines could be extended for those receiving paper checks. That’s because the IRS will not begin issuing paper checks until about three weeks after those direct deposits hit – likely the week of May 4th. Paper checks will be released at a rate of about 5 million per week, which means that it could take up to 20 weeks to get all the checks out to all taxpayers.

This isn’t set in stone. The memo reflected an understanding of the timeline based conversations between the Ways and Means Committee and Treasury and IRS officials. (I’ve seen the memo and confirmed its authenticity.)

Checks could be mailed faster. Mnuchin has made clear, “I am assuring the American public, they need the money now.”

Approximately 150 to 170 million taxpayers may be eligible to receive stimulus checks.

There’s so much happening now. Here’s where you can find information on how COVID-19 is affecting tax returns and, of course, those stimulus checks.

Got questions about stimulus checks? I’ve got answers. There are separate pieces for high school seniors and college students, as well as seniors (seniors piece is updated here).

IRS has pushed filing deadlines to July 15. Not all state and local tax authorities are following the feds. If you’re looking for updates on local and state tax authority closings and extensions, you’ll find those here.

If you’re looking for a summary of the CARES Act, you can find it here.

All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. According to the Social Security Administration, “This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” You can find out more here.

IRS is closing down some operations. The upside is that they’re offering some relief, too. You can find those details here.

Finally, if you’d like to help out, there are many organizations offering services during the crisis.

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENTS! I may not see them. Best to ask here.

COVID-19 continues to impact the United States, the federal government is taking action to ease the burden on taxpayers. Most recently, Congress passed a massive stimulus package. A key feature of the stimulus is individual checks.

You can read my rundown on the basics of the stimulus checks here – along with answers to popular questions. I’ve been updating it regularly as readers submit questions (here’s how to ask). One of the most popular questions is: What happens to kids who have aged out of the child tax credit?

Here’s what we know from the bill: Stimulus checks will be $1,200 per adult – or $2,400 for married couples filing jointly – and an additional $500 per child, subject to income limits.

For purposes of getting the $500 per child, the bill uses the same definition for a child as you’d use for the child tax credit. The sticking point for most parents for this purpose is age: the child must be under age 17 at the end of the tax year. That means you do not get $500 for a child above the age of 16, even if they live with you and eat your food and spend your money and sleep in your house.

And I get that it’s unfair. You don’t have to send me angry emails. I have a child who fits that bill. She got left out of the stimulus plan. It stinks. But if you want to be mad at someone, be mad at Congress.

So if you can’t claim your child, you might think that the child could simply qualify on their own for a check. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for all adult children: dependents are not eligible to receive a separate check.They’re excluded under the language in the bill.

Who qualifies as a dependent? A dependent is a qualifying child or qualifying relative. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) clarifies, at Pub 501, that a qualifying child meets the following criteria:

  1. The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them.
  2. The child must be (a) under age 19 at the end of the year and younger than you (or your spouse if filing jointly), (b) under age 24 at the end of the year, a student, and younger than you (or your spouse if filing jointly), or (c) any age if permanently and totally disabled.
  3. The child must have lived with you for more than half of the year (some exceptions apply, including for school and the military).
  4. The child must not have provided more than half of his or her own support for the year.
  5. The child must not be filing a joint return for the year (unless that joint return is filed only to claim a refund of withheld income tax or estimated tax paid).

Realistically, many high school seniors, college students, and adult children living at home don’t provide more than half of their own support. Many rely on their parents to pay expenses, including health care. If that’s the case, that makes them – for tax purposes – a dependent so long as the other criteria apply.

(If you’re not sure whether a child provided more than half of his or her own support, you may find this IRS Worksheet helpful.)

If, however, a student or other adult child does not qualify as a dependent, they may be eligible for a check. If the child is not currently filing their own taxes, they may want to consider filing a tax return with the IRS even if they have no taxable income.

But what if a child wouldqualify as a dependent but you don’t want them to? Can a parent simply not claim the child and allow the child to file a tax return and collect a check? I don’t think so. I believe that if you qualify as a dependent, you’re a dependent unless you’re otherwise excluded by law. In other words, even if you don’t claim your child on your tax return, that doesn’t mean they’re not a dependent.

Some confusion still swirls around this point. As Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted, Congress is trying to squeeze what would have been several months’ worth of work into five days of legislation. There are going to be holes and we will need guidance. Treasury has not yet issued guidance and I suspect that they will address this issue specifically. I expect to see it after the President has signed the bill into law.

I’ll update this article once that’s available. The IRS will eventually post information on its website.