COVID-19 Stimulus Checks – How Much, Who Qualifies, and Other FAQs

The information in this article was last updated on April 17, 2020. This article relates to the tax laws enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. These laws may have expired or reverted to their original state.

The U.S. government passed a $2 trillion dollar stimulus plan on Friday, March 27, 2020.

Wondering how much your COVID-19 stimulus payment will be? Estimate your 2020 payment now with our calculator.

The U.S. government is about to send stimulus payments in the form of checks or direct deposit to many American taxpayers to help people financially survive the COVID-19 outbreak.  

Quick Answers 

“How do I receive a stimulus check?” 

If you have filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019, you don’t need to do anything else. If you haven’t filed taxes for either year, the IRS recommends that you file back taxes for 2018. Individuals who are on Social Security and are not normally required to file a tax return do not need to take any action. 

“Is the check being mailed or sent direct deposit?”  

The check will be sent in the same method you received your IRS refund. If you are not set up for direct deposit, your check will be mailed using the address on your most recent tax return. 

“What if I don’t have the same bank account now?”  

If you don’t have the same bank account as you used on your tax return, the deposit will not go through. If this happens, the IRS will mail your check to the address on your most recent tax return. 

“Is the government using my 2018 or 2019 tax return?”  

The government will first look at your 2019 return to determine your eligibility. If you have not filed your 2019 return, they will look at your 2018 tax return. 

“Is the amount I receive based on my AGI or total income?” 

The amount you receive will be calculated based on your adjusted gross income, not your total income. 

For more answers to frequently asked stimulus payment questions, visit the IRS’s Economic Impact Payment Information Center.

How will the government decide how much I receive? 

According to the bill, the amount you will receive from the COVID-19 stimulus package is determined by your AGI and your tax filing status. The government will look at your 2019 tax return (the one you filed this year) to get this information. If you haven’t prepared this year’s tax return yet, they will use your 2018 AGI and filing status. Where can I find my AGI? 

How much will I get from the government for my stimulus check? 

The stimulus plan outlines the following amounts based on your adjusted gross income and filing status

Filing status AGI amount Stimulus check amount 
Single $75,000 or less $1,200 
Married filing jointly $150,000 or less $2,400 
Head of Household $112,500 or less $1,200 
Dependents under 17* N/A +$500 

*Each qualifying dependent under age 17 at the end of the tax year will be worth an additional $500. This amount will be added to the check of their legal guardian. 

If your income exceeds the thresholds in the chart above, the amount will be reduced on a sliding scale and phase out at $99,000 for single filers, $198,000 for joint filers, and $136,500 for head of household filers. 

The IRS and Department of Treasury have not yet announced how much taxpayers filing married filing separately will receive. 

Who will receive a stimulus check?  

To be eligible for a stimulus payment from the US government you need to meet the following requirements:  

  • You must have filed a tax return for tax year 2018, 2019, or have a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, or Form RRB-1099, Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement 
  • Your AGI in 2018 (or 2019) must be below the threshold for your filing status  
  • You must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a U.S. resident alien 
  • You must not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return* 

If you didn’t have to file a 2018 tax return, you still have time to file a tax return for 2019 and get your stimulus check.  

*Dependents who are claimed on someone else’s return will not receive their own payment. However, if they are under age 17 at the end of the tax year, their legal guardian will receive an additional $500 for them. 

Where will my stimulus check be sent? 

The money will arrive the same way your refund is delivered – either deposited directly into your bank account or mailed to you via check*.

If you are set up to receive your tax refund via direct deposit, the IRS will use that information from your 2019 return to deposit the money directly into your bank account. 

If your bank account is closed, the IRS will mail your check. 

If you are not set up to receive direct deposit but have filed your 2019 return with your correct address, the IRS will use this information to mail you a check. You can deposit or cash the check like normal. 

If you have not filed a 2019 tax return, the IRS will look to your 2018 tax return to acquire the information necessary to send you your payment. 

If you haven’t used direct deposit on your 2018 or 2019 tax return but wish to receive the stimulus payment directly in your bank account, use the Get My Payment tool on the IRS website to provide your current banking information. This will allow you to receive your stimulus payment as soon as possible. 

*If your tax refund was deposited to a bank card (like Green Dot), the stimulus will be deposited to the card. Learn more.

When will my stimulus check arrive? 

Stimulus payments are being delivered. Use the Get My Payment tool on the IRS website to check the status of your payment. 

For more information about how Economic Impact Payments are being delivered, read When Will I Get My Stimulus Payment?

If I don’t receive my payment within 3 weeks, how can I tell if it was misdirected? 

You should receive a notice in the mail about 2-3 weeks after your payment has been disbursed. The notice will include how the payment was delivered (direct deposit or check) and where the payment was sent. If you still can’t locate your payment, contact the IRS using the information on the notice. 

Do I have to file my state return to be eligible to receive a stimulus check? 

No, you don’t have to file your state return to receive your stimulus check. However, if your state requires you to file a return because they have state income tax, you should still file. For more information on state returns, read An Overview of State and Local Taxes. 

Is my stimulus check taxable? 

No, the stimulus checks are not taxable as 2020 income. You will not owe taxes on your payment according to the IRS.

What if I didn’t file my 2018 or 2019 taxes? 

If you didn’t file in the past two years, the IRS recommends that you file your 2018 taxes as soon as possible. You can file your prior year return with TaxSlayer. Simply log in or create an account and choose 2018 return.

For more information on prior year returns, read Can I File for Previous Years Online? 

Will the government look at my 2018 return if I file my 2019 return today? 

The government has not announced a cut-off date for looking at 2018 returns. What this means is, if you file your 2019 return today or soon, it is not yet clear whether if they will be looking at your 2018 return or your 2019 return. 

Can I get a stimulus check if I get Social Security?  

As long as your total AGI does not exceed the threshold, you will be eligible to receive the stimulus payment – even if you receive Social Security benefits. 

In a recent press release, the U.S. Department of the Treasury confirmed that if you are not normally required to file a tax return, you do not need to file now just to receive a stimulus check. The government will use the information from your Social Security forms to calculate and send your payment.  

Read also: What Social Security Recipients Should Know About the Cares Act Stimulus Payments

Can I get a stimulus check if I’m on unemployment?  

Yes, if you are unemployed you will be eligible to receive a stimulus payment. 

The bill also has plans to expand unemployment benefits for an additional four months. 

More individuals, like self-employed workers and part-time workers, may also be eligible to receive unemployment benefits when the bill passes. 

Can I get a stimulus check if I’m self-employed? 

Yes, as long as your AGI does not exceed the threshold you will be eligible to receive a stimulus payment. If you find yourself without work, you can also apply for unemployment during this time. You may also be eligible for an additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the government to self-employed workers who find themselves without work during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Read more about COVID-19 stimulus payments and special tax credits for the self-employed.

Find additional resources related to the COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments, extended tax deadlines and more here

This article is intended to provide general information to the public and does not provide personalized tax, investment, legal, or business advice. You should seek the assistance of a professional for advice on taxes, investments, and any other financial, legal, or business matter pertinent to your individual situation.