November 24, 2020
If a second stimulus check happens, when would it come? We've mapped out some dates

Here’s how your second stimulus check may be bigger the second time around


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Would the amount of your stimulus check go up or down in the second round or stay the same? Here’s what we know and how it could change.


Angela Lang/CNET

While the timeline for a new economic stimulus package — and therefore a second stimulus check — is still up in the air, there are some aspects of the next COVID relief bill that we think we do know, including a shift in qualifications that could bring some people a larger total stimulus check this time.

Families may stand to gain from adjustments in eligibility, but having dependents isn’t the only way you might receive more money, or even less, with another check. 

We’ve identified six ways that a second round of payments could be worth more money to you than the first and explain the situations that could lead to less money. Here’s how the IRS decides how much money you get. For a specific estimate, try our stimulus check calculator. This story updates often.

How you could actually receive more money with a new payment

If approved as part of an economic rescue bill, a second stimulus check is expected to roughly follow the guidelines used for the first stimulus check passed in March as part of the CARES Act. It may also include changes from previous proposals, possibly even the latest White House offering. For most people, the total amount you’re likely to receive is based on your adjusted gross income, or AGI, and other eligibility requirements.

Here are the scenarios in which you could receive more money from a second payment:

More people qualify as a dependent: The Democratic proposal for the next bill expands the definition of “dependent” to include anyone you can claim on your tax returns — such as children over 16 and adults under your care. So your number of dependents could increase.


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Child dependents get more money: A recent White House proposal would keep the same age restriction for children, but double the payout to $1,000.

Your employment status changed: If you become unemployed this year or your wages drop, that could lower your AGI, which is used to determine the payment.

You got married: Depending on several variables including your spouse’s filing status and new dependents, a change in marital status could result in a larger check.

You now share custody over a child: If you meet specific qualifications, you and the child’s other parent may both be entitled to claim extra stimulus money.

A rule permanently changes concerning people who are incarcerated: 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 first and second stimulus checks.

Here are some potential scenarios for how the two different approaches could play out for families. You can use our stimulus check calculator to get a more specific estimate for your particular situation. 

How a change in dependent status might bring more stimulus cash

There’s a good chance that the next stimulus bill will expand the qualifications for dependents one way or another. You can read more about that here or above. What we’re seeing from two different proposals (neither of them law) is that in one scenario, you could get $500 for dependents of any age. In a different scenario, you could get $1,000 per child dependent — that would mean a 16 year old or younger.

If you have a child, see below how that could affect your family. Note there are currently additional rules for stimulus check eligibility if you pay or collect child support.

Stimulus check calculations with dependents

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
Tax filing status Single Head of household Married Married
2018 or 2019 tax AGI $45,000 $60,000 $160,000 $190,000
ESTIMATED TOTAL WITH:
1 dependent under 17 ($1,000 total) $2,200 $2,200 $2,900 $1,400
3 dependents under 17 ($3,000 total) $4,200 $4,200 $4,900 $3,400
1 dependent of any age ($500 total) $1,700 $1,700 $2,400 $900
3 dependents of any age ($1,500 total) $2,700 $2,700 $3,400 $1,900

How you could receive less money with a next check

In the first round of stimulus checks, the IRS, for most people, based the amount on their 2019 federal tax returns if they filed them and their 2018 returns if they didn’t. But some Americans who qualified for a check experienced personal or financial changes after filing that would affect a future payment. 

You might qualify for a smaller check if you:

Started a job or received higher pay: A change in your AGI, either because of a wage increase or a change in employment status, could lower the check’s size.

Have fewer qualified dependents: Congress could keep the restrictive dependent requirements of the CARES Act which was passed in March, and any dependents you claim could age out of eligibility.

Owe child support: Under the CARES Act, the government will hold back money to cover owed child support.

Could a change in my status affect payment of the first round of checks?

With the first checks, if your financial situation changed after you filed your 2018 or 2019 tax return, you can claim that additional amount on your 2020 tax return when you file in 2021, the IRS said. You’ll likely need to take an extra step to claim your credit — the IRS will post more details closer to tax season 2020.

Also, with the first round of payments, you won’t be required to pay back a stimulus payment if, based on your 2020 tax returns, you no longer qualify for the amount you received.

Should I do anything before the IRS sends another payment?

If another stimulus payment is approved and you’re eligible, the IRS will send your check automatically. But there may be some things you can do to help make sure you receive your money quickly.

Register for direct deposit to your bank account: Direct deposit is the fastest way to get your money. The IRS already has a system in place to electronically transfer the funds into your checking account, if you already provided those details and registered for direct deposit for your first check or as part of filing your IRS tax return. 

Look for the registration tool to reopen if another stimulus check is issued. If you don’t have a bank account, read on for other ways to prepare.

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The amount of stimulus money you could get in a second round of checks is still undecided. 


James Martin/CNET

If you moved, you need to let the USPS know: If you don’t have direct deposit, you’re most likely to receive a stimulus payment in the form of a physical check. The IRS will mail your check to your last known address, so If you’ve moved recently, you’ll need to file a change of address with the US Postal Service.

Keep an eye on the mail: For the first stimulus payment, instead of a paper check, about 4 million people received a prepaid Economic Impact Payment Card in the mail. This is money you can spend like cash on a debit card. The cards came in plain, unmarked envelopes that were prone to being tossed by mistake. When and if the time comes, you can sign up for a free USPS service to track your mail all the way to your mailbox, so there are no surprises — or disappointments.

Beware of scams: Stimulus check fraud is real, and it’s still ongoing as millions of people continue to wait for their first checks. Fraudsters prey on people they consider vulnerable. Knowing common attacks can help you recognize and avoid them. There’s no second stimulus check scheduled right now, but that won’t stop a scammer from trying to take advantage.

Looking for more stimulus check information? Read up on all the finer points of the stimulus payment here. If you’re still waiting for your first stimulus check, here are 10 possible reasons for a delaywhat you can do if you think your payment was lost or has fallen through the cracks and whether you could receive two refund checks from the IRS.



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