Claim missing stimulus money on your tax return ASAP. Here's how
Tax Day has been delayed this year, but if you're one of the millions of people missing stimulus check money from the first two payments, now's the time to file for a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 return. We've got everything you need to know.
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You need to file for the credit when you submit your federal tax returns this year. The IRS started processing 2020 tax returns on Feb. 12, and federal tax returns will be due May 17 due to an extension the IRS approved.
File for your missing money from the first and/or second stimulus on the 2020 Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR. The tax return instructions include a worksheet to figure out the amount of any Recovery Rebate Credit for which you're eligible, according to the IRS. However, this worksheet requires you to know the amounts of your stimulus payments. Again, CNET's stimulus check calculators for the second and first payments can provide an estimate.
Watch this: Stimulus check 3: How much money you'll get
To start filing for a partial check rebate, you'll need the IRS' calculated amount from the letter the IRS sent confirming your payment. This was called Notice 1444 for the first payment and Notice 1444-B for the second payment.
If you file for the credit and are owed money, you'll either see the amount of your tax refund increased or the amount of tax you owe lowered, depending on the amount of stimulus money you're eligible to receive.
Claim missing stimulus money, even if you don't usually file taxes. Here's how
When you file a 2020 Form 1040 or 1040SR you may be eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit. Save your IRS letter -- Notice 1444 Your Economic Impact Payment -- with your 2020 tax records. You'll need the amount of the payment in the letter when you file in 2021.
Unfortunately, the IRS Get My Payment tool is no longer available for the first and second stimulus payments, so you won't be able to find your information there.
I didn't get the Recovery Rebate amount I expected. What happened?
If you claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on your tax return, the IRS will determine your eligibility and the amount of the credit based on two things: your 2020 tax return, and the amounts of any stimulus payments issued previously (if you got them).
If there is a mistake with the amount on line 30 of form 1040 or 1040-SR (where you claim the credit), the IRS will calculate the correct amount and process the return, according to an April 5 news release. This might delay the processing of your return, and the IRS will send you a letter explaining any changes. Some common reasons why the IRS may need to correct your credit are:
If you think the IRS sent you the wrong amount, the agency recommends reading its Recovery Rebate FAQ page before contacting them.
Here's why your tax refund or missing stimulus money could have been seized
Stimulus checks are technically considered a tax credit, no matter how you get them. Typically, the IRS can reduce a taxpayer's refund to repay outstanding debts like past-due child support, unpaid student loans and certain other federal and state liabilities. The CARES Act stated that the first stimulus check could not be garnished for these purposes, except for overdue child support.
The December stimulus package went a step further and protected the second round of stimulus checks from all garnishment, including child support. However, it also limited that exception only to advance payments, and retroactively revised the CARES Act's rules as well -- meaning that your Recovery Rebate Credit that arrives on your tax refund for missing stimulus money is treated differently from the stimulus money that arrived for others in the mail, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the IRS.
For the third check, because of the way it was passed, it's open to garnishment from private debt collectors, but not child support payments.
Bottom line: If you're eligible for a stimulus payment through a Recovery Rebate Credit, but you have certain outstanding debts, some or all of your credit could be withheld to pay those debts, the Taxpayer Advocate Service wrote in a blog post.
What to do if your stimulus check was mistakenly garnished
According to the IRS, the parent who doesn't owe child support should receive their portion of the first payment without having to take action. If you haven't received your check, the IRS says it's working to send out the missing payments. While you don't have much recourse to appeal IRS decisions, you can also try the Non-Filers tool to create a record of your claim.
Claim missing stimulus money for your child dependents. Here's how
Under the CARES Act passed in March 2020, each qualifying child dependent -- those 16 years old and younger -- was eligible for a $500 check. But some people's payments were short $500 for each eligible dependent. If you claimed it by Nov. 21 of 2020, you should have received the payment in December 2020.
As with the nonfilers, if you missed that deadline, the IRS says you can claim the payment on your 2020 federal tax return this year, by filing a 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Use our stimulus check calculator to get an idea of how much you may be owed.
In the second stimulus check, which went out in December, children under 17 were each allotted $600 as part of the family total.
Note that in a few cases, where parents are separated or divorced and share joint custody of a dependent, each parent can get a $500 or $600 payment per eligible child, for the first and second checks, respectively. So you may not even be aware you're eligible for the payment to begin with.
If you're a US citizen living abroad or a noncitizen, here's what to do
The IRS has rules that set the payment eligibility guidelines for US citizens who live abroad and non-US citizens who work in the US -- along with spouses of nonresident aliens. We have a guide that walks you through the various eligibility scenarios along with what to do if you qualify but didn't get a check. (And here's how your status might change in a third check for mixed-status families.)
Incarcerated people can receive a stimulus check, according to a court ruling
A ruling last fall by a federal judge in California, however, seemed to have settled the question for now and required the IRS to contact those incarcerated and let them know they can file a claim for a stimulus check. The deadline to file a claim in 2020 -- either through the mail or online -- has passed. As with others who are missing a payment, the IRS said if you didn't receive a payment by Dec. 31, 2020, you may be able to claim it this year by filing a 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.