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- A third round of stimulus checks is on its way to Americans.
- The check is the largest yet: up to $1,400 per person and $2,800 per married couple.
- The checks are part of a $1.9 trillion economic relief package called the American Rescue Plan.
- Calculate your third stimulus check payment »
The proposed checks are larger than the previous two rounds and will pay up to $1,400 to individuals — including dependents of any age — and $2,800 to married couples.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about stimulus checks.
Where is my third stimulus check?
By April 1, more than 130 million payments had gone out, the IRS said, mostly by direct deposit. A batch of payments issued March 24 included about 15 million paper checks and 5 million prepaid debit cards, which take longer to arrive than bank deposits.
Here's the expected timeline for delivery of stimulus checks, based on updates from the IRS and previous rounds of payments:
- March 12 to 15: The first wave of direct deposits hits bank accounts.
- March 15 to 31: Direct deposits continue; checks are mailed.
- April 1 to 15: Checks and debit cards arrive; electronic payments arrive for federal benefits recipients
You can track your payment using the IRS's "Get My Payment" tool.
Who qualifies for the third stimulus check?
Direct cash payments are part of a $1.9 trillion economic package called the American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed on March 11.
Anyone with a Social Security number who meets the income requirements is eligible for a payment. The amount is based on the adjusted gross income on your 2019 tax return, unless your 2020 return has already been processed.
Americans with AGIs of $75,000 or less will get the full $1,400 payment. Married joint filers will receive double that — $2,800 — if their AGI is $150,000 or less. There's also an additional $1,400 added to the check for each qualifying dependent of any age. This is a break from the past two relief bills, which did not include payments for dependents age 17 and over but did include smaller amounts for children.
Head-of-household filers, who are most often single parents, with AGIs of $112,500 or less will get the full $1,400, plus $1,400 per qualifying dependent.
The legislation gives reduced checks to people earning above those income limits, before phasing out completely at an AGI of:
- $80,000 for single filers
- $120,000 for head-of-household filers
- $160,000 for married joint filers
People who aren't required to file income-tax returns also get payments, as long as they used the IRS nonfilers tool last year or have filed a 2020 tax return. Social Security retirement and disability beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients who don't file are getting payments for themselves. To claim a dependent payment, they will need to file a 2020 tax return.
How will dependents get their stimulus check?
One major difference between this round of checks and the last two is that dependents of any age are eligible to get money.
But to be clear: Eligibility for a stimulus check lies with the person who claims the dependent on their tax return. In most cases that's a parent or caregiver. They're the person who qualifies (or doesn't) and gets paid. An additional $1,400 is added to that person's check for each dependent with a Social Security number who is claimed on their tax return.
According to the IRS, adults who rely on another person for more than half of their expenses can be claimed as a dependent. That includes students up to age 19, or age 24 for full-time college students. Dependent adults can also include disabled people and retirees.
Do I have to file 2020 taxes to get the third stimulus check?
No. The Treasury can use 2019 or 2020 tax returns to determine your payment.
It will also send payments to people who don't file taxes, but who either used the IRS nonfilers tool last year to submit information or receive federal benefits such as Social Security retirement or disability and Supplemental Security Income.
However, if you qualify for more money based on your 2020 income or need to claim additional dependents, you will need to file a 2020 tax return so the IRS can top off your payment.
How will I get the third stimulus check?
Most will arrive via direct deposit; others will be mailed as a paper check or a prepaid debit card.
Exactly how much money you get and how it's delivered depends on the information provided on your 2020 tax return. If it hasn't been filed or processed yet, the IRS will look at your 2019 return.
In most cases, your payment will be delivered to the bank account (if you received a refund) or mailing address (if you owed money) that's listed on your tax return. If you used the nonfilers tool because you don't file taxes, the IRS will use that same information to deliver your third payment, either to your bank account or address.
Social Security retirement and disability beneficiaries, railroad retirees, and people who received veterans' benefits in 2020 don't need to do anything to get the third stimulus check. They will get their payment the same way they normally receive benefits.
The IRS's "Get My Payment" tool is the only place to check how and when your payment is going to be sent (note: not all of the payments have been processed yet; you might get a "status not available message" even if you're eligible for a check).
What if my stimulus check is too small?
Married people whose tax return includes an injured spouse claim may be getting their payment in two installments, the New York Times reported. An injured spouse claim protects one person's portion of the tax refund from the other's outstanding debts. Both payments should generally arrive in the same manner, whether by direct deposit or mail, but may not in some cases, the IRS told the Times.
If your stimulus check is too small for other reasons — i.e. it doesn't include all your current dependents or reflect your current income — then you should file your 2020 tax return ASAP.
You can get up to $1,400 as an individual and $2,800 as a married couple if you file taxes jointly. Up to $1,400 will be added to your check for each dependent with a Social Security number.
The payments going out right now are largely based on 2019 income since we're still in the middle of the 2020 filing season. If your 2020 income qualifies you for a bigger check, you'll be able to get the rest of your money later this year after you file your 2020 return. According to the legislation, to be considered for additional payment you need to file within 90 days of the federal tax deadline, which is now May 17.
Can my third stimulus check be garnished for unpaid debt or taxes?
These payments are protected from all federal and state offset. That means you'll get the full amount you qualify for even if you have past-due federal or state debt, such as child support, or you owe taxes from previous years.
But, because Congress used a process called "budget reconciliation" to pass this stimulus bill — which only allows certain types of legislation to pass through Congress — private collectors will have the right to garnish stimulus check money that lands in your bank account to cover unpaid debts. This is different from the previous $600 stimulus check, which had protections against garnishment.
Several consumer and banking trade groups signed a letter to Congress pushing for legislation to protect the new stimulus check funds from garnishment.
"We believe it is imperative that Congress ensure that these next stimulus payments are treated as 'benefits' subject to the federal exemption from garnishment," the groups wrote. "Otherwise, the families that most need this money — those struggling with debt and whose entire bank accounts may be frozen by garnishment orders — will be not be able to access their funds."
What if I still haven't gotten the first or second stimulus check?
You'll need to file your 2020 tax return to claim any stimulus money you're owed from the first two rounds.
There will be a separate worksheet on your tax return with instructions for calculating any outstanding amount owed to you, called the Recovery Rebate Credit. If you file your taxes online, the provider will prompt you to enter the information and do the calculations for you.
If you do qualify for additional stimulus money, you won't get it right away. It will first be applied to your outstanding tax bill. If your bill is reduced to $0, the rest of the money will be added to your refund. The IRS delivers most refunds within three weeks.
Can my Recovery Rebate Credit be garnished?
The first and second rounds of stimulus checks — authorized in March 2020 and December 2020 — were protected from federal and state debt offsets, and even private debt collectors in some cases.
Unfortunately, the same protections don't apply when these payments are claimed as the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 return. Remember, you can only claim the credit if you're missing a stimulus check you qualify for, or you received too little based on your 2020 income and tax situation.
Your stimulus tax credit can be used to offset state or federal debts, like past-due child support (you'll get a letter notifying you before this happens). Your credit cannot be used to offset federal taxes you owe for prior years, according to guidance published by the IRS on March 18.