Most Americans can expect to get a cash payment of over $1,000 as part of the heaping $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill President Donald Trump signed on Friday to stimulate the faltering economy.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that the free money will go to about 90% of U.S. households to help ease some of their financial pain from the pandemic, which has caused massive business shutdowns and layoffs and is making it tough for people to pay their rent, mortgages and other bills.
When will I get my stimulus check?
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has indicated taxpayers should start receiving the money by mid-April.
"We’re determined to get money in people’s pockets immediately," he told CNBC.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says the president hopes things can move even more quickly. The New York Democrat says Trump wants the payments to start going out on April 6.
But former tax officials and other experts say the administration is being too optimistic. They say the last time the government distributed relief money on a large scale — in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession — it took two to three months to get payments going.
By the way, while media outlets are using the shorthand that Americans will get "stimulus checks," that's not entirely accurate. Mnuchin says most people will see the cash infusions show up automatically in their bank accounts through direct deposit.
You'll be mailed a paper check only if the IRS doesn't have your account information, maybe because you normally receive tax refunds by check.
There's no type of sign-up necessary to get your money, so beware of scammers who might call or email claiming they have an application you need to fill out.
How much coronavirus money will I get?
The standard payment amount is $1,200, though you may receive less depending on your income. The full amount will go to:
- Single adults earning $75,000 or less.
- Those who file as head of household with incomes of $112,500 or lower.
Married couples who file jointly and make $150,000 or less will get $2,400. And, households with kids qualify for an additional $500 for each child under the age of 17.
Payment amounts phase out for taxpayers with higher incomes. You won't receive any money if:
- You're single and earn more than $99,000.
- You're a married couple making more than $198,000.
- You're a head-of-household filer and your annual income exceeds $136,500.
The income that counts toward eligibility is the adjusted gross income on your tax return, which is the money you made during the year minus certain deductions.
The IRS will base your payment on the most recent tax return you filed. If you haven't filed your 2019 return yet — and you now have until July 15 to do that — the tax agency will pull up your 2018 filing.
If you earned too much during 2018 to receive a payment but would qualify based on last year's income, because it was lower, you'll want to file your 2019 return quickly. You can do that easily and for free using Credit Karma.
Other reasons you may not receive a relief payment
Having a higher income isn't the only reason you may not receive any stimulus money. You might not get anything:
- If you don't file tax returns. Some people earn so little that, technically, they don't have to file taxes. If you haven't filed a 2018 or 2019 return, you should submit one immediately — to get yourself on the IRS' radar.
- If you've moved. Before anyone receives any relief cash, the IRS will send out notices about the money to Americans' addresses on file with the tax agency. If you normally take tax refunds by check and you've moved since you filed your last return, you need to submit an IRS change-of-address form.
- If you're a teenager. Sorry, but you won't get a payment if you're claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return, and that goes for children 17 and older who are too old to score their families the $500 payments for kids but who are likely claimed on their parents' returns. They can't receive any of the money.
- If you're a college student. The same goes for college students. If you're under age 24, still in school and relying on your parents to pay at least half your expenses, the IRS considers you a dependent and ineligible for a stimulus check.
- If you owe back child support. Your payment won't be reduced or wiped out if you owe back taxes or are behind on student loans or any other government payments. The only exception is if you are past due with child support that states have reported to the Treasury Department, says Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
What if I'm on Social Security? Will I get money?
Yes, seniors collecting Social Security are eligible for stimulus cash.
If you're retired and living strictly on Social Security, you're not required to file tax returns — but you don't need to rush to get one into the hands of the IRS.
You'll receive a coronavirus relief payment based on the information the tax agency has from your annual Social Security benefits statement, according to AARP.
Will I have to pay taxes on my stimulus check?
In a word: Nope.
Will any more cash be coming?
The record $2 trillion stimulus package — called the Care Act — calls for just a one-time injection of cash into Americans' wallets. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says there could be more.
"We think we'll get more direct payments in another bill," she told CNN.
During the financial crisis of the 2000s, the government sent two rounds of checks: one batch in 2008 that went to most taxpayers, and another in 2009 that provided an extra boost to Social Security recipients, railroad retirees and disabled veterans.
Need to decide on the best use for your stimulus cash? While you make up your mind, park it in a high-interest savings account and let it grow.