Stimulus check qualifications today and 3 possible changes in the next payment – CNET

 005-stimulus-piggy-bank-tear-falling-money-clip-weighing-cash-scale

The eligibility rules shifted with a second stimulus check and look like they might change with the third as well.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Age, dependents, marriage statusincome. Keeping all the qualifications straight for either the first or second stimulus payment is no simple task and that’s before you factor in a possible third stimulus check. But getting your arms around eligibility requirements can help you figure out if the IRS has sent you the correct payment for you and your dependents, or if you need claim your full amount from the IRS

In addition, keeping tabs on the rule changes from one check to the next can help you understand if you’ll qualify for the next stimulus payment as well — maybe even for the first time. For example, President Joe Biden is proposing including more people in his $1.9 trillion stimulus bill proposal that includes $1,400 stimulus checks. Requirements also take into account your adjusted gross income, citizenship and tax status and there are specific rules and exceptions for nonfilers and some people in child support situations

With the second stimulus checks mostly paid out, there are still millions of people who may need to claim their share in their 2020 taxes as part of a stimulus rebate credit, or potentially even file a payment trace. If this applies to you, it’s important to know how qualifications could affect your total — so read on. This story was recently updated.

The next stimulus check could open up to more dependents

Biden’s proposal would open up eligibility requirements to both child and adult dependents. Dependents over age 16 didn’t qualify for the first and second checks, but a change here would make college students, older adult relatives and people of any age with certain disabilities entitled to receive money on behalf of the household total.

That change, were it to happen, would include roughly 13.5 million adult dependents, according to the People’s Policy Project.

‘Mixed-status’ families have different eligibility requirements with the second check and maybe the third

In the $900 billion stimulus package from December, a US citizen and noncitizen spouse are both eligible for a payment as long as they have Social Security numbers. This has been referred to as a “mixed-status” household when it comes to citizenship. Households with mixed US citizenship were left out of the first check.

Biden’s proposal would include all mixed-status households in a third stimulus check, potentially including families with citizen children and noncitizen parents.

It’s unclear if these previously excluded groups would receive the maximum amount. As we saw with the second stimulus check, dramatic changes can and do happen in the final moments of negotiation.

In the CARES Act from March, households with a person who wasn’t a US citizen weren’t eligible to receive a stimulus check, even if one spouse and a child were US citizens. 


Now playing:
Watch this:

Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know

3:22

Why more people could automatically qualify for a $1,400 stimulus check

If we see a third stimulus check for $1,400, or really any amount over $600, more people will automatically qualify for a partial payment than with the first stimulus check. That assumes this formula the IRS uses were to stay the same, and rely on income limits based on your adjusted gross income, or AGI. (More below for people who don’t normally file taxes.) 

One way to explain how the size of the maximum ($600 and $1,200 in the case of the first two checks) can change how many people would get a check in the first place, is through the chart below. In a simplified sense, you got the whole amount if you made below a certain amount. If you made more than that, you got a partial payment. If you made “too much” money, you got nothing. 

It turns out that the lower maximum check amount in the second check dropped that income limit, so some people who got the first check didn’t get the second. In reverse, a larger third check could mean more people will get a partial check, in addition to the larger payment size overall. For the sake of simplicity, these income limits don’t include qualified children. You can use our stimulus check calculator to estimate what you’d get in a $1,400 stimulus check. 

$600 second stimulus check income limits

AGI to receive full amount (both stimulus checks) Second stimulus check upper income limit (AGI) First stimulus check upper income limit (AGI)
Single tax filer Under $75,000 $87,000 $99,000
Head of household Under $112,500 $124,500 $146,000
Married, filing jointly Under $150,00 $174,000 $198,000

The figure in the first column above represents the lower income limit to receive the full amount. Above that figure, your check amount would decrease on a sliding scale the higher your AGI, until it hits the second column, which is the most you can make before you’re disqualified. The third column represents the upper limit from the first check. 

Second payment: Child dependents count for $100 more

With the second stimulus check, each eligible adult can get up to $600, decreasing as income raises (more on this above) and each child dependent — age 16 and younger — can also qualify for a $600 payment. There is no cap on how many children you can claim for a payment.

As with the first stimulus check, children age 17 and above, and dependent adults won’t be eligible for the $600 dependent payout. This excludes roughly 13.5 million adult dependents from contributing to the household total, according to the People’s Policy Project.

Read moreNobody can take your stimulus check away, right? Know your rights

Who qualifies for a second stimulus check

Qualifying group Covered in final law
Individuals An AGI of less than $87,000
Head of household An AGI of less than $124,500
Couple filing jointly An AGI less than $174,000
Children under 17 years old $600 apiece, no limit on number of children
Families with noncitizen spouse Provided they meet other qualifications
US citizens living abroad Yes, same as CARES
Citizens of US territories Yes, same as CARES, with payments handled by each territory
SSDI and other tax nonfilers Yes, but may require an extra step to claim (more below)
Incarcerated people Initially excluded by IRS interpretation, but now included by court order
People who owe child support Excluded under CARES, but included in new bill
Disqualified groups Not covered in final law
Non-US citizens “Resident aliens” are not included
Noncitizens who pay taxes Not included if spouse is not US citizen

Noncitizens aren’t currently eligible for stimulus money, even if they pay taxes

The CARES Act made a Social Security number a requirement for a payment. While earlier proposals would have expanded the eligibility to those with an ITIN instead of a Social Security number because they’re classified as a resident or nonresident alien, this group of people is again excluded in the final bill text that authorizes a second stimulus check. We’ll have to wait to see how this group is addressed in a final third check.

Child support won’t be garnished from your check to cover overdue payments anymore

If you owed child support, your first stimulus money could be taken for arrears (the amount you owe). With the second check, those who owe child support will not have their payment garnished to cover past-due payments. It’s unlikely we’ll see the third stimulus check walk this back.

money-dollars-bills-sock-american-flagmoney-dollars-bills-sock-american-flag

The definition of a child dependent did not change with a second stimulus check, but could shift with a third.


Angela Lang/CNET

People who are incarcerated could get a stimulus check per current law

After months of back and forth, the IRS was ordered by a federal judge to send the first stimulus checks to people who are incarcerated. They are not excluded from the new law, which means eligibility for this group currently stands. It’s unclear if there will be any more details in the third stimulus check bill, though this is more likely to continue as a matter of interpretation, as it is now.

Your taxes and stimulus check eligibility go together

For most people, taxes and stimulus checks are tightly connected. For example, the most important factor in setting income limits is AGI, which determines how much of the total amount you could receive, be it $600 or $1,200 for individuals and $1,200 or $2,400 for married couples (excluding children for now). The same will hold true with a third stimulus check.

Read more below for your eligibility if you don’t typically file taxes.

If you’re an older adult or retired, here’s how you could be affected

Many older adults, including retirees over age 65, received a first stimulus check under the CARES Act and will be eligible for a second one. For older adults and retired people, factors like your tax filingsyour AGI, your pension and if you’re part of the SSI or SSDI program (more below) will affect if you receive a second payment. 

The third stimulus check could make older adult dependents eligible to receive more money on behalf of the household. Here’s how to determine if you qualify for your own stimulus check or count as a dependent.

coins-measuring-spoonscoins-measuring-spoons

How much stimulus money you could get depends on who you are.


Angela Lang/CNET

Nonfilers are still eligible for stimulus checks 

With the second payment, the IRS will use your 2019 tax returns to determine eligibility. Nonfilers, who weren’t required to file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019, may still be eligible to receive the first stimulus check under the CARES Act. And this group will qualify again. Here are reasons you might not have been required to file:

If you still haven’t received a first or second check even though you were eligible, you can claim it on your taxes in 2021 as a Recovery Rebate Credit.

People who receive SSI or SSDI usually qualify for a payment

Those who are part of the SSI or SSDI programs qualified for a check under the CARES Act. Recipients wouldn’t receive their payments via their Direct Express card, which the government typically uses to distribute federal benefits, but through a non-Direct Express bank account or as a paper check. SSDI recipients can file next year to request a payment for themselves and their dependents.

In the December bill, these recipients will again qualify to receive payments, along with Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans Administration beneficiaries.

For more information, here are the top things to know about stimulus checks today, everything you need to understand about stimulus checks and your taxes and what’s happening with a third stimulus check now.