December 4, 2020
Stimulus check money: Everything we know about how large your second payment may be

Why a second stimulus check could bring you more money, if and when it arrives


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We help you estimate the maximum amount that could end up in your bank account if another stimulus payment is approved.


Angela Lang/CNET

The screws are tightening on the debate over the coronavirus relief bill and the second stimulus check that could come with it. Whenever it happens — and it could either just squeak by before the Nov. 3 election, or slip to after the results are in — it’s likely that the maximum will top out at $1,200 per individual and $2,400 per married couple, just like the first check did

There may be some changes this time around that could affect the size of your check. If you have any dependents, your household could get a bigger payment. And in some cases, you might get less money. As was the case last time, the exact terms of a second payment would depend on the qualifications set out in the bill, whatever form it ends up taking — a stand-alone piece of legislation for checks, or a larger package. At this point, the exact contents and provisions within the White House’s $1.8 trillion offer aren’t yet transparent.

With the election just over two weeks away, the struggle is palpable. House speaker Nancy Pelosi has given the White House a deadline of Tuesday to reach an agreement on a stimulus package for any chance to pass before the Nov. 3 milestone. Meanwhile, the Senate plans to vote Tuesday on a stand-alone bill to renew payroll protections — which doesn’t include any direct payments — potentially kicking off a clash between the Senate and President Donald Trump, who wants to send $1,200 stimulus checks

While we can’t foresee exactly what will happen, we do have enough information to go on to present all the ways your check could expand or contract and how you can prepare. (And while you’re here, this is how the IRS decides your total stimulus check sum.) This story updates often.

Would I get more money in a second payment?

If passed, a second stimulus check is expected to largely follow the first stimulus check but also add some changes from previous proposals, possibly even the latest White House offering. For most people, the total amount you’d probably receive is based on your adjusted gross income, or AGI, and other eligibility requirements

The biggest variable is expected to be a change to the status of dependents in the final bill. One approach would let you claim a dependent of any age, adding $500 apiece to your total. Another would keep the age restriction, but give you $1,000 per child dependent. The latter would benefit parents and guardians with younger kids, even if the parents are relatively high earners. The former benefits those with older dependents, such as a college student or grandparent.

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. 

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 would the IRS determine if I get more or less money in a second check?

In the first round of stimulus checks, for most people, the IRS 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. 

Besides a change in payment requirements in a new economic bill, you could qualify for a bigger check if you:

  • Lost your job or are earning less
  • Gained dependents through a birth or adoption
  • Are now caring for an adult relative if the definition of “dependent” changes
  • Got married — the math may work out differently depending on certain factors, like if you work and your spouse does not

You might qualify for a smaller check if you:

  • Started a higher-paying job
  • Have fewer dependents
  • Owe child support


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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.

Is there anything I should do 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 will be 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 post office 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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