January 17, 2021
Stimulus check eligibility, update, status, amount: Everything to know about the IRS payment

Stimulus check income limit, eligibility, amount: Everything you need to know about the first IRS payment


There’s a lot to know about the round of IRS stimulus payments authorized by the CARES Act.

Angela Lang/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

All signs point to a second stimulus check going out to eligible individuals and families once Washington lawmakers finish negotiating another economic relief package. It could be called CARES 2. (Here’s when we think the checks might be sent).

Most people who qualified have gotten their stimulus payment from the first CARES Act, which was passed in March and earmarked a maximum amount of $6,000 for families and $1,200 for individuals, as a direct deposit, check, or prepaid debit card. If you seem to still be waiting, try tracking your payment with the IRS or follow these steps to make a missing payment report.

This frequently updated story is a hub for all there is to know about stimulus payments right now, including if you need to worry about paying taxes on your check, what your rights are with it, and how to use the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) card if you got one.

Know your stimulus check rights

Here are some important things to know about your stimulus check. These rules apply to the first stimulus check signed in March and could serve as a model for the second check, if it passes.

The payment is not taxable: You won’t pay taxes next year on a stimulus payment you receive from the IRS in 2020. The IRS does not consider it income, and a payment you get in 2020 will not reduce your refund or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 tax return next year. 

Since the stimulus check doesn’t count as taxable income, you are not required to hand it over to facilities like nursing homes and landlords. Lawmakers are looking into stopping this practice, the LA Times reported

Your stimulus payment will also not count toward determining any benefits you receive from the federal government.


The checks will be paid out through the end of the year, with the bulk of the IRS payments having already gone out.

Angela Lang/CNET

You can spend your stimulus money just like cash. If you receive your payment on one of the prepaid debit cards, you can transfer the entire amount to your own account. The one limitation is, the IRS will reduce your payment to offset past-due child support.

Second stimulus check from the IRS: What’s happening today

“Speaking of building on what worked in the CARES Act, we want another round of direct payments, direct payments to help families keep driving our national comeback,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said July 21. “Helping to create more American jobs is an urgent moral priority.” 

McConnell has previously indicated that this stimulus check could be the last.

Here’s the latest progress on the second stimulus check, including the current proposals for another direct payment for individuals and extended relief for renters and unemployed people.

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Haven’t received your stimulus check yet? Let’s track…


How many stimulus checks have been mailed so far?

The bulk of the first round of stimulus checks has been mailed. While the IRS hasn’t responded to our many requests for current numbers, we do know that as of the first week of June, the IRS had made around 160 million payments through direct deposit to bank accounts, and through the mail as paper checks and prepaid debit cards.

A June 5 report from the House Ways and Means Committee estimates as many as 35 million Americans who qualify have not yet received their checks (PDF). The agency plans to continue sending checks through the end of the year to those who are eligible.

How to use the Economic Impact Payment prepaid debit card if you got one

On May 18, the US Treasury said it was starting to send about 4 million prepaid debit cards called EIP cards. The Treasury said it was sending these cards instead of paper checks to some eligible US residents for whom the government does not have banking information.

The Treasury said you can use the card to make purchases, get cash from in-network ATMs and transfer funds to your personal bank account without a fee. You can also use the card at stores that accept Visa debit cards. Once you receive your EIP card in the mail, head to the EIP card page to set it up.

You may meet the requirements for a payment from the federal government as part of the 2020 stimulus package.

James Martin/CNET

Still no stimulus check? Find the schedule for when it will get sent

You can use the IRS Get My Payment service to see a schedule for your payment. The US Postal Service also has a free service that can notify you when your check will arrive in the mail. You’ll need to sign up for it. 

When will the checks be completely paid out?

A smaller number of checks may continue to arrive through the end of the year, the IRS said. 

If you want to receive your payment straight to your bank via direct deposit, the deadline to provide your banking details in the IRS Get My Payment portal has passed. Those who had previously provided the IRS with their banking info can still receive their payment through direct deposit.

The Social Security Administration said Supplemental Security Income recipients who didn’t file a 2019 and 2018 return and who don’t have a representative payee should have received their electronic payment from the IRS by May 13 by direct deposit or to their Direct Express card. For SSI recipients who receive their monthly SSI payment by paper check, the IRS began mailing checks on May 15.

Here’s what we know about tracking your stimulus payment. If you’ve moved since the last time you filed your taxes, here’s where you can update your address with the IRS.


Every little bit helps.

Angela Lang/CNET

How much stimulus money you get depends on your taxes

The total amount of your stimulus check will be based on your adjusted gross income, or AGI, from your 2019 federal tax filing or, if you haven’t filed this year, your 2018 filing.

If you filed your 2019 federal tax return, you can find that figure on line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax form. It’s line 7 on the 2018 1040 tax form.

Here’s who is eligible for a stimulus payment

The amount you’ll receive will depend on your total income in 2019 or 2018. If you qualify, you’ll receive one payment. Here’s who qualifies:

  • If you’re a single US resident and have an adjusted gross income less than $99,000
  • If you file as the head of a household and earn under $146,500
  • If you file jointly without children and earn less than $198,000

Read on for how your payment is calculated and how much you can expect. You can also look at this calculator from the Washington Post.

A Government Accountability Office report in June noted that the US Treasury and IRS faced early challenges making payments and sent almost 1.1 million checks to people who had already died and were not eligible for a payment.

The IRS said someone who died before receipt of the payment, a nonresident alien or someone who is incarcerated do not qualify for a check. These payments need to be returned if received, the IRS said.

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Second stimulus checks are closer to reality


How much you’ll get as a single taxpayer

A single US resident must have a Social Security number and an AGI under $75,000 to receive the full amount of $1,200. The sum decreases as your AGI goes up. If your adjusted gross income reaches $99,000, you won’t be eligible for the stimulus. 

Heads of household

If you file as head of a household, you will get the full $1,200 payment if your AGI is $112,500 or less, with the amount decreasing until you reach $146,500.

Couples filing jointly

Married couples filing jointly without children with an adjusted gross income below $150,000 will get a $2,400 payment, decreasing to zero at $198,000.

For children

For each child aged 16 or younger in the family, parents will get a payment of $500. Parents will not receive a payment for children born, adopted or placed in foster care in 2020, because the payment is based only on information from your 2019 or 2018 tax return. The IRS said you may claim the child next year for an additional credit on your 2020 tax return. Older children and other dependents may not be eligible for a payment.

If you haven’t filed federal taxes, do that right now

The IRS said if you haven’t filed your 2018  or 2019 federal taxes, that could affect your stimulus check. Be sure to include direct-deposit banking information on the return — that could help you get your money faster if there’s a second stimulus check.

Read more: The best tax software for 2020: TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxSlayer and more

If you’re not typically required to file a tax return, you could still receive a payment

Many who normally are not required to file a tax return — including senior citizens, Social Security and Social Security Disability Insurance recipients and railroad retirees — will not need to file a simple tax return to receive the payment, the IRS said.

The IRS said recipients of Supplemental Security Income will automatically receive the full $1,200 economic impact payment, with no action needed on their part.

Others, including those who haven’t filed a 2018 or 2019 return because they’re under the normal income limits for filing a tax return, can use the Non-Filers portal to get their payment. To get started, go to the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here site and tap the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here button. As part of the process, you’ll enter personal information and, if you want to receive your stimulus check by direct deposit, banking information.

The IRS said anyone who registers with the nonfilers tool by Oct. 15 will receive the payment by the end of 2020.

What about Social Security recipients?

The Treasury Department said that Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file an abbreviated tax return to receive a payment. Instead, the IRS will use the information on Form SSA-1099 for Social Security beneficiaries who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019.

The IRS said automatic payments should already be arriving for recipients of Social Security, survivors or disability insurance benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits.

What about those who receive federal benefits and have children?

The IRS said those who receive federal benefits, have dependent children and weren’t required to file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 needed to act by late April or early May to receive a full payment this year.

If you didn’t submit this information by the due date, the IRS will give you $1,200 this year and the additional $500 per eligible child with your return filing for tax year 2020 — roughly a year from now.

SSI and VA beneficiaries had until May 5 to update the IRS.

The update deadline for people who receive Social Security, survivor or disability, or Railroad Retirement benefits was April 22. The IRS said recipients in those groups have been scheduled to receive checks.

For more on how to use the Non-Filers tool, see the section above titled “If you’re not typically required to file a tax return…” to learn more.


Among other things, the stimulus checks aim to make it easier to put food on the table.

Angela Lang/CNET

The deadline has passed to set up direct deposit to have the check sent to your bank account

If you don’t have direct deposit to your bank account set up, the deadline to provide your banking details in the IRS Get My Payment portal was May 13. Those who had previously provided the IRS with their banking info can still receive their payment through direct deposit. And you can still use the Get My Payment portal to check the status of your payment.

To avoid scams, the IRS cautions you not to provide your direct deposit or other banking information to others who offer to help you set up an electronic transfer.

Do you need to sign up, apply or request your check?

For most, the federal government will automatically send your check to you electronically or in the mail, if you qualify. If you haven’t filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019, the IRS said you may need to file one to receive a payment. Scroll up to the section beginning “If you’re typically not required to file a tax return” for details on who is required to file and how.

What to do if you don’t receive your check

If you qualify for a payment, the IRS plans to mail a letter about your payment to your last known address within 15 days after it sends the money. The IRS said the letter will provide information on how the IRS made the payment and how to report not receiving the payment if you don’t get it. Several CNET readers, however, are reporting that the letter does not include clear instructions for what to do if you don’t receive the payment. We’ve asked the IRS for clarification.

The IRS said to also watch out for phishing schemes and other scams.

The IRS added 3,500 telephone representatives in May to help with potential problems regarding payments. The representatives won’t be able to help with problems specific to your payment, however. CNET readers report being able to get through to the service and receiving help.

We have tips for how best to use your stimulus check and how to avoid being scammed. If you need more help, here’s how to get financial relief.

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