9 ways the third stimulus check could bring you more money – CNET

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More stimulus money might be coming your way. Here are all the ways you could see a larger third payment.


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On Friday, the Senate approved a budget resolution for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, paving the way for Democrats to move forward on the process of finalizing the COVID-19 relief bill with a third stimulus check for up to $1,400 a person. This money, however, will likely be targeted to Americans who are under a certain income threshold. That means that depending on how much you earn, you could get a much bigger check for you and your family — or nothing at all. 

We won’t know exactly what’s going to happen until Congress passes a final version of the bill. If a $1,400 stimulus check is approved and follows the same formula as the first two payments, it would bring many households more money overall, compared to the second stimulus payment. But with lower income limits likely, there could be a lower cutoff point to qualify.

Even so, a change to the stimulus qualifications or a new development in your own life circumstances could also get you and your family more money in a third payment than you got in the second round. We’ll walk through some hypothetical situations that may happen. This story was recently updated with new information.

Dependents could be eligible for $1,400 apiece

More dependents — including teens over age 16, young adults and older adult relatives — could be eligible for a third stimulus check, and could also be qualified to receive a bigger payment than child dependents got with the first check (up to $500) and the second check (up to $600). 

Biden’s proposal would also make each dependent count toward $1,400 apiece, The Washington Post reported. This money would be added on to the family’s total payment, however — it wouldn’t arrive as a separate check for those dependents. So in theory, a family of four that met all of the income requirements could receive up to $5,600 total

It isn’t clear if there would be a cap on the number of dependents you could claim in this situation. 


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More dependents could be eligible overall

Who counts as a dependent? That depends on the definition in the next stimulus package. For the first and second checks, a dependent is any child aged 16 or younger, but previous proposals from Democrats seek to expand the definition to include anyone you can claim on your tax returns — such as children over 16 and adults under your care.

If Congress approves Biden’s proposal — and again, all of this is still in flux — that could bring your family more money by raising the number of overall dependents, including college students, dependent children with disabilities over 17 and older adults.

It also isn’t clear if the new qualifications would only apply to people excluded in the first two rounds, as a make-up payment, or if each third stimulus check would also come with a fresh injection of cash per dependent. Try our third stimulus check calculator for an estimate.

If you have a new dependent this time around, your family could get more money

If you had or adopted a new child, or if an older relative moves in, or if for whatever reason you gain a dependent since the last check, you may see a larger check because you’ve added a new dependent since the last stimulus round.

Families who are considered ‘mixed-status’ could qualify for a payment

According to Biden’s stimulus plan, more families who are considered “mixed-status” would be eligible for a stimulus check. The second payment broadened the rules for the first check by making it possible for families where one spouse is a US citizen to be eligible for a check. Biden’s proposal would work with more scenarios; for example, it would potentially provide stimulus check money to a household of US citizen children with noncitizen parents.

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Did you recently get married or have a baby? That could mean more money in a third stimulus payment — as soon as March.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Changed jobs this year? Here’s how that could impact your payment

If you became unemployed this year or your wages dropped, that could lower your adjusted gross income, which is used to determine your payment. For example, if you got a partial payment with the first or second check, a third check could bring you a full payment if you’re no longer employed.

What about if you just got married and are filing jointly? 

Depending on several variables that include your spouse’s filing status and any new dependents, a change in marital status could result in a larger check. For example, if you were single and filing alone, you got $1,200 at most the first time around. Married, you could be eligible for up to $2,400, since the IRS formula used to determine your total stimulus money is based on your combined household income.

If a third stimulus check arrives for $2,000 per person, your spouse could double it to $4,000. Alternatively, if your personal AGI would only get you a partial stimulus check payment on your own, filing jointly with a spouse with an income under the threshold could qualify you for the whole check total.

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With a third check, your stimulus money could add up.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Sharing custody of a child could impact your payment

If you meet specific qualifications, you and the child’s other parent may both be entitled to claim extra stimulus money. That means you could get an extra $500 or more in the third stimulus check, especially if anything in your situation changed between the time you filed your 2019 tax return and your future 2020 return. The third check allowance would be based on your most recent tax filing.

A rule change involving inmates might become permanent

A federal judge has ruled that the IRS owes stimulus checks to inmates in prison who qualify. If the ruling stands, these people may be entitled to a third stimulus check as well as the first two, with more potential money for dependents.

Stimulus check status for people who are undocumented residents isn’t definite, but doesn’t look good

Democrats have proposed that undocumented US residents should be eligible for stimulus relief funds if they pay taxes (through an ITIN number). This provision was part of the Heroes Act that passed the House of Representatives in two forms, but which isn’t law. Currently, you need to have a Social Security number to be eligible for a stimulus check.

If a third stimulus check arrives, that would mean this group could potentially get a check for thousands of dollars. It seems unlikely to happen, however: On Feb. 4, the Senate passed a bill blocking stimulus payments from undocumented immigrants. (This has no impact on eligibility for mixed-status families.) While this is not binding, it seems unlikely that senators will change their position now that they are on the record, according to The Hill.

Here’s everything else you need to know about stimulus checks today, including how to claim any missing stimulus money on your 2020 tax return, and how to contact the IRS about your missing payment.