November 25, 2020
If you missed the deadline to claim your $500 stimulus check from the IRS, here's what to do now

Stimulus checks and child support: These parents may get a second $500 payment per dependent


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Stimulus checks for dependents were rife with issues, with some parents receiving no payment while other parents each got $500 for the same child.


Angela Lang/CNET

Did you know that the qualifications for stimulus checks are a little different for people who pay or receive child support? For example, unpaid debts can lead to a state garnishing a stimulus check. On the other hand, some parents with joint custody who are divorced or separated may actually get two $500 checks per child; one for each parent. That isn’t an IRS bug, it’s a result of the way the agency defines eligibility (keep reading for an explanation). 

There’s been talk of changing some rules with a new economic relief package that would provision a second stimulus payment, but talks won’t resume seriously until after Election Day. Any adjustments to the rules would mean that a second direct payment, whenever it happens, could be different from the first.

Until then, we can help answer any questions you may have about the first stimulus check, such as how much money you could get for your child dependent as part of your larger payment. Our stimulus calculator can give you a specific monetary estimate. This story was updated recently.

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States were allowed to take some or all of a person’s stimulus check payment to cover past-due child support bills.


CNET

Your state might deduct child support from your stimulus check

Although the government prevented debts like overdue student loans and back taxes from being taken from the first round of stimulus checks, one type of debt not covered by those protections was overdue child support, also known as “arrears” or “arrearage.” If you owe more than $150 in arrears, your state may reserve the right to garnish some or all of your first stimulus check, based on how much you owe. 

And if you’re owed child support, you may receive money garnished from your child’s other parent, although how long it takes to get to you depends on a lot of factors (the money has to process through the state, which will then issue it to you).

Read more: Stimulus check formula revealed: This is how the IRS decides your total

How this could affect a second stimulus check

Depending on which language is incorporated into the next stimulus bill — if one is passed at all — past-due child support may or may not be garnished again. The Heroes Act, a proposal that was passed in the House of Representatives but is not law, specifically prohibited reducing or offsetting the amount of stimulus checks to pay a child support debt. The Senate’s HEALS Act, which is also not law, allowed it. It’s unclear where the current stimulus bill under negotiation in Washington stands on the matter.

Read moreYou don’t have to be a US citizen living in America to get a stimulus check

How to get your spouse’s money back if child support was mistakenly garnished

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If your nonparent spouse had money deducted from their stimulus check for child support that you owe, the IRS will issue another check to make up the difference.


CNET Staff

Although states had the right to garnish CARES Act stimulus check money from parents who owed back child support, the IRS, which issued the checks, says it didn’t mean to allow states to also deduct from a current (nonparent) spouse’s stimulus check as well.

If you are now married to someone who is not the child’s parent, and past-due child support was deducted from funds intended for your current spouse, the IRS directed taxpayers in August to fill out a Form 8379 (PDF) in order to receive a replacement check. However, since then, the agency says it is sifting through to find such errors and will be issuing replacement checks, although it did not provide a timeline for doing so. It appears the IRS is ironing out this particular wrinkle, so hopefully it won’t be a problem next time.

Read moreInside Joe Biden’s plan for stimulus relief

Yes, joint custody means you could get a $500 check per child twice

Most of the time — but not always — the noncustodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent, who likely claims the child on their taxes. Sometimes, however, child support is owed even when parents share custody (when one parent earns significantly more than the other, for example). In many of those cases — but, again, not all — parents alternate claiming the child on their taxes (one in odd years, the other in even years, for example).

In situations like these, it’s possible that the $500 stimulus payments for dependents could be sent to the parent who’s owed back child support while the one who owes receives nothing. If that happens, the parent who did not receive the money can claim it on their 2020 tax return and receive it along with any refund due in 2021, according to Janet Holtzblatt, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “Double dipping,” in this instance, isn’t a glitchboth parents technically qualify for the $500 payment (for a total of $1,000 per child).

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If you need help figuring out dependent payments, try contacting the IRS directly.


Angela Lang/CNET

Still confused? Where to get help figuring this all out

Like anything having to do with taxes, this stuff can get confusing pretty quickly. If you need help and don’t have an accountant on retainer to assist you, you can try looking for more information on the IRS website or giving the IRS a call. At the bottom of the IRS’ letter accompanying paper checks is a number you can call for more information: 800-919-9835. The IRS help number is 800-829-1040.

Stay up to date on the latest on stimulus bill negotiations here, find out how much you might qualify for with our payment calculator here and see when you might get a second stimulus check with our stimulus timeline here.



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