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9 things we already know about your first and second stimulus check

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When will the IRS send another stimulus check? Here are some possibilities.


Angela Lang/CNET

Let’s get through the bad news first. The Nov. 3 election is in less than a week away and time has run out to vote on a stimulus bill beforehand, though negotiations are continuing. Now for the good news. Every major proposal we’ve seen since May — including presidential candidate (and former Vice President) Joe Biden’s — includes a second stimulus check.

Where does this leave you? Waiting. And beyond that, armed with solid facts and educated guesses that can help you prepare for the debate — and maybe resolution — to come. If approved, the bill is expected to include a second stimulus check worth up to $1,200 per individual and more for certain situations — here’s how the IRS determines your total stimulus check amount. Keep reading to learn how taxes factor into your payment and to see if you might be due more money from the first round of direct payments. We updated this story recently.

Read more: Would you use your second check like these people?

A new check won’t come until after the election is over

Negotiators haven’t successfully narrowed their differences on a bill. Yet, both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remain hopeful that the final wording of a bill will be ready — one way or another — after the election and hopefully before the new term begins

Trump has promised “the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen,” if Republicans sweep Congress and the presidency. It’s unclear what would happen if election results went a different away. Congress convenes on Jan. 3 and the office of President is sworn in on Jan. 20. Once again, the timeline is up in the air and the results may hinge on the outcome of the election.

The IRS owes some people a catch-up payment

If you’re still waiting for your first stimulus payment, there are several ways to hunt it down. As many as 9 million people were estimated to be eligible for a first check but didn’t receive it because they needed to register with the IRS — an extra step most people didn’t have to take. The deadline is Nov. 21 and we show you how to register here

Some people with dependents received only a partial payment and are still owed money. The deadline to get that in 2020 is also Nov. 21, and we explain how you can claim it with next year’s taxes.

And if you share custody of a child but you’re not married, you may each be able to receive $500 per child dependent

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2 new groups might qualify for stimulus money

Democratic negotiators have supported bringing certain undocumented immigrants to the US who pay taxes the same $1,200 stimulus check afforded to US citizens at home and abroad, as well as some people living in US territories

An Oct. 27 tweet from Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein quotes White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany discussing the Democrats’ desire to bring stimulus checks for undocumented workers into the next stimulus bill. By the CARES Act rules, qualified noncitizens who are permanent residents and “resident aliens” were entitled to the first check so long as they met other eligibility requirements.

A second group who could get a first or second check include people who are incarcerated, and otherwise eligible. A judge in California ruled (PDF) that imprisonment should not disqualify someone from receiving a stimulus check and ordered the IRS to release payments to people who would otherwise meet the qualifications. The ruling found that the CARES Act did not specifically or legally bar this group of people from getting checks and that the IRS’ interpretation is incorrect. If this ruling holds, up to 2 million people or their families could still receive payments for incarcerated individuals.

Stimulus payment calculations employ this not-so-simple formula

You may be interested to know that the IRS has a formula for working out how much stimulus money you could get, and that’s what determines whether you receive the full amount, a partial payment or far more than $1,200 if you have kids.

It also explains how you might still be able to get some stimulus money, even if your family’s yearly income exceeds the limit set out by the CARES Act in March. The calculations start with your household’s total adjusted gross income, add on the money allotted to qualifying dependents, and then start deducting from the total, based on your income bracket (as defined by the CARES Act). 

You can calculate how much you could get in a stimulus check now, as well as for a second check.

You may be in one of 5 payment groups

Eligible Americans got the first stimulus payment at different times, often because of the way they got paid, and a second payment would be similar. For example, people who have set up direct deposit — an electronic transfer of funds into their bank account — with the IRS could get their checks weeks before those who receive a paper check or prepaid EIP card in the mail. We identified five priority groups based on the first stimulus checks

Your second payment could possibly arrive quicker than the first

With the first check, the IRS learned how to mobilize and deliver stimulus money, and worked out many of the difficulties in the process. If a second check is approved, it’s likely the agency could speed up the process of sending out the first set of payments. The tracking tool is already up and running, the system is in place and it’s probable that the majority of people who qualified for a first check would also receive another. 

The timeline is constantly changing, but we’ve mapped out potential dates a check could be sent if approved before — or after — the election.

New eligibility changes might deliver more money for your dependents

It’s likely that a second stimulus check would largely follow the same rules and guidelines as the first. But the qualifications for who could get money are subject to change, in ways that could benefit your family. One proposed bill redefines who counts as a qualifying dependent, and would give your family $500 for each dependent you claim on your taxes, regardless of age. 

The current $1.8 trillion proposal from the White House offers a $1,000 payment per child dependent. We’ve explained how some families might benefit more from one bill than the other in terms of a total payment. (Here’s how young people could qualify for their own $1,200 check.)

stimulus-check-in-us-mail-envelope-cash-money-2020012

Less than a quarter of eligible recipients received their payment as a check in the mail.


Sarah Tew/CNET

There are several confusing exceptions and rules

If a second stimulus check is approved, there will be lots of small details, rules and exceptions that may be confusing. While some situations will be easy to understand, others concerning you and your dependents might make it unclear if you’re eligible and how much money you might receive. There are many fringe cases.

For example:

You will not pay taxes on any stimulus money

The IRS doesn’t consider stimulus money to be income. That means a payment you get this year won’t reduce your refund in 2021 or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 tax return. You also won’t have to repay part of your stimulus check if you qualify for a lower amount in 2021. The IRS said if you didn’t receive everything you were owed this year, you can claim it as a credit on your 2020 federal income tax return by filing in 2021. Here’s everything to know about stimulus checks and taxes.

There’s much more to know about other government payments during the pandemic, including a possible interest check from the IRS and where the $300 federal unemployment benefit is now.



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