In order to stimulate an economy in crisis during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the United States passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in the last days of March 2020.
The Senate unanimously passed a version totaling $2 trillion on March 25. It was approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Donald Trump the following day.
Part of the bill, which is unprecedented in scope, includes cutting one-time, $1,200 checks to millions of Americans.
While many Americans will receive these checks soon, some are not eligible. Additionally, there are ways to ensure that you get your check as soon as possible.
Who is Eligible?
In broadest terms, any American adult with an income under $75,000 will receive the full $1,200 check.
The checks are based on your adjusted gross income (AGI), meaning your annual income minus some deductions like health savings account deductions, deductible self-employment taxes, and student loan interest.
If you have filed your 2019 taxes, the Internal Revenue Service will use that to determine your eligibility. If you haven’t, they will use your 2018 taxes. You must have a Social Security number.
The amount you receive will decrease by $5 per every $100 you earn over $75,000. Anyone with an AGI over $99,000 will not receive a check.
Additionally, you will receive $500 per child under the age of 17.
The amounts are doubled for married couples; i.e., if you have an AGI of $150,000 or less as a couple, you will receive a $2,400 check.
Who is Not Eligible?
Beyond American adults earning above the cutoff AGI, several groups are not eligible for checks.
Children aged 17 or 18 are not eligible for the $1,200 check nor the $500 check for children.
College students between the ages of 17 and 23 will not receive checks if they are claimed as dependents by their parents. Other adults claimed as dependents, like a disabled sibling or elderly parent, are not eligible.
Estates and trusts are not eligible.
Nonresident aliens, immigrants who are not US citizens without a green card, will not receive checks.
If you have not filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, you are technically ineligible, but you can still file your 2019 taxes now.
When Will My Check Come?
The CARES Act is vague about the timeline for the stimulus checks, only requiring that they should be sent out “as rapidly as possible.”
As the bill was being negotiated, many politicians argued that the payments should go out within several weeks.
Sunday, March 29, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reiterated his position on Face the Nation that the checks would be deposited in the bank accounts of eligible Americans within 3 weeks of Trump signing the bill into law.
“We expect that within 3 weeks, that people who have direct deposit with information with us will see those direct deposits into their bank accounts, and we will create a web-based system for people where we don’t have their direct deposit, they can upload it so that they can get the money immediately as opposed to checks in the mail,” Mnuchin said on the program.
Tax filers who already have a bank account linked to the IRS will get their money the fastest.
Mnuchin said that the government is creating a web portal for Americans who don’t receive direct deposit from the IRS. If the IRS doesn’t have your banking information, you will receive a check in the mail, but it will likely take several weeks longer.
Could There Be Delays?
Some economic experts believe the 3-week timeline might not be feasible considering historic precedents.
After a tax cut bill in 2001, it took the IRS 6 weeks to send out rebate checks to eligible taxpayers. In 2008, a stimulus bill was passed as an effort to stymie the Great Recession; however, it took about 3 months after that bill was signed for Americans to receive their checks.
What is different now is that many more Americans have shared their direct deposit information with the IRS. Because of this, payments will hopefully arrive by the April 16 deadline set by Mnuchin.
If you have not filed 2018 or 2019 taxes due to reasons like being a senior citizen, low-income taxpayer, or Social Security recipients, you can fill out a basic 2019 tax return in order to receive a stimulus check. The IRS says this does not mean you will owe taxes.
Am I Getting Scammed?
Unfortunately, times of crisis are feeding grounds for scammers, and there have been reports of bad actors trying to take advantage of Americans who are confused about the stimulus bill. The government will never use text as a primary way to communicate with you about your check, and you will never be required to hand over login information. Also, you will not be required to pay clearance fees.