During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has passed three major pieces of legislation to provide financial relief to individuals and families. The American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) provides the most recent round of Economic Impact Payments, also referred to as stimulus payments, to millions of Americans.
While payments are currently being distributed through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to eligible recipients, there are still millions of people who haven’t received the first or second payments and may not receive the third because the IRS does not have their account information or address. If you haven’t received one or multiple payments, you still have an opportunity to claim the financial relief you’re eligible for, but you must take action by filing a tax return or filing for an extension by May 17, 2021.
Here’s our complete guide to the COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments (EIPs).
- How much could I receive?
- How do I know if I’m eligible?
- How will I receive my payments?
- What can I do if I haven’t received my payment or if I’m eligible to receive more?
- What do I do if my bank or credit union has charged my account fees when I got the EIP?
- How do I check the status of my payment?
- Beware of scammers pretending to be the IRS
How much could I receive?
The most recent stimulus payment, which began rolling out in March 2021, expands the amount you can receive to $1,400 per single individual or $2,800 for a married couple filing jointly. It also expands the payments and eligibility for dependents to include those over the age of 17, including college students and adults with disabilities.
The amount you’re eligible to receive is calculated based on your income on your 2019 tax return unless you had already filed your 2020 tax return before payments were sent. If your income dropped in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and you qualify for a larger stimulus payment, the IRS will issue a second adjusted payment once the 2020 tax returns are processed.
How do I know if I’m eligible?
In addition to the income limits, individuals must also meet certain citizenship and identification requirements. If you haven’t received prior payments, keep in mind that qualifications for each payment vary slightly.
For example, the latest round of EIPs allow households to claim payments for their qualifying dependents with a Social Security number (SSN), even if the head of the household or married couple doesn’t have a SSN.
How will I receive my payments?
If you file your taxes, you’ll likely receive your payments automatically and in the same way you received your 2020, 2019, or 2018 tax refunds. The majority of payments will be delivered through direct deposit, check, or through a pre-paid MetaBank debit card issued by the Department of Treasury.
If you don’t typically file your taxes
If you’re a recipient of certain federal benefits, you’ll receive the latest EIP in the same way you receive your benefit payments.
If you don’t typically file a tax return because your income is below tax-filing thresholds and you haven’t received an EIP, learn what steps you need to take.
The majority of payments will be issued in same way you received your 2020 or 2019 tax refund or your federal benefits. If you have direct deposit set up for your tax refunds, your stimulus payments will be delivered to the same banking or credit union account, or onto an existing pre-paid card.
Check or EIP Card
If you’re not set up with direct deposit, you’ll receive your payment by check or on a . If you received a card for one of your first stimulus payments, this card won’t be reloaded, so you’ll receive a new card.
The EIP Card will be sent in a white envelope from “Economic Impact Payment Card” and will display the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal.
Recipients of certain federal benefits, who don’t typically file their taxes, are likely to receive their stimulus payments in the same way they receive their benefits. This includes recipients of:
- Social Security retirement, survivor, or disability (SSDI) from the Social Security Administration
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration
- Railroad Retirement and Survivors from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board
- Veterans disability compensation, pension, or survivor benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs
What can I do if I haven’t received my payments or if I’m eligible to receive more?
There are several scenarios where individuals may not have received any or all of the payments they’re eligible for. Common situations include:
- You don’t normally file taxes and the IRS doesn’t have your recent information on file.
- You moved or changed bank accounts since the last time you received a tax refund or other benefit.
- You had a child in 2020 and are eligible to receive EIPs for your dependents.
- You were previously claimed as a dependent but became independent in 2020. For example, you turned 19 (non-student), 24 (student), graduated, or got married.
To receive your first and second EIP or an adjusted amount, you must file a 2020 tax return or file for an extension by May 17, 2021. The Recovery Rebate Credit – on – allows you to claim missed payments.
Get help if you need it
You don’t have to be an expert to file your taxes. If you meet certain income requirements, there may be free tax preparation options to help you get your refund and all the credits you’ve earned.
In addition, get support with free tax preparation or software to prepare your own taxes through MyFreeTaxes or .
If you do seek the help of a professional, ask them about choosing your 2019 or 2020 income in order to maximize your Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit.
Changing your dependent tax status
If you’re thinking of changing your filing status from dependent to independent, this may have significant consequences for whomever has been claiming you as a dependent. For example, they may miss out on other tax credits worth more than the Recovery Rebate Credit.
Take time to consult with your family or tax professional before changing your dependent status.
What do I do if my bank or credit union has taken my EIP to cover fees or overdrafts?
If you think you didn’t receive your full payment because your bank took some of it to cover money owed to the bank, call them and ask for them to give you access to all of the funds. Your bank may be willing to give you access to your full EIP. Sometimes banks and credit unions do this by refunding fees or giving you a temporary credit if your account is overdrawn. If they give you a credit, make sure you find out when you must pay it back.
Use the following conversation points to help you ask your bank, credit union, or prepaid card provider for help:
Explain your financial situation is a result of COVID-19 and ask for a credit or other help for any fees or amount for which you are overdrawn.
Remember, when speaking with your bank or credit union, always be prepared. Have all your statements available and ask for them to explain any and all fees that were applied to your account.
How do I check the status of my payment?
Beware of scammers pretending to be the IRS
With the rollout of EIPs, there’s an increased risk of scams. It’s important to stay vigilant and aware of unsolicited communications asking for your personal or private information—through mail, email, phone call, text, social media or websites—that:
It’s important to remember that the IRS will never ask you for your personal information or threaten your benefits by phone call, email, text or social media. They also won’t threaten you with jail or lawsuits, or demand tax payments on gift cards.
If you receive an unsolicited email, text, or social media attempt that appears to be from the IRS or an organization associated with the IRS, like the Department of the Treasury Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, notify the IRS at email@example.com.
If you’re a victim of a COVID-19 scam, report it to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at 866-720-5721 or . IRS-related scams, including fraud or theft of Economic Impact Payments, should also be .