Do you have to return your stimulus money to the IRS? Maybe. Here's what to know
Some who received a stimulus check may be required to send back some or all of the payment, depending on specific circumstances and errors made by the IRS. Here's how to find out if you're in this group.
Katie TeagueWriter II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
ExpertisePersonal Finance: Social Security and taxes
What if you got stimulus money that you weren't eligible for with the $1,400 check?
The income cutoff to receive a third stimulus check is $80,000 for an individual taxpayer, $120,000 for a head of household and $160,000 for a married couple that files jointly. If you make more than that amount and still got a payment, the IRS will likely expect you to return all or some of it.
However, if you made more in 2020 than you did in 2019 but you get a stimulus check before filing your taxes, you won't be expected to return that money. You can use our third stimulus check calculator to estimate how much you'll get.
Watch this: Stimulus check 3: How much money you'll get
Why you may need to return some or all of the stimulus money you received
The government determines who is and isn't eligible to receive a stimulus check based on several factors. If you fall into any of these categories and received a stimulus check, it was likely by error:
You received a check for someone who has died -- but there's some nuance here (more below).
What to know if a family member in your household died
If you received a payment for someone who died in 2019 or earlier, the IRS says you should return the entire payment "unless it was made to joint filers and one spouse is still living." If you're the living spouse, you should return half the payment -- just not more than $1,200 in all.
However, if the check is issued in both your name and your deceased spouse's name (and therefore you can't deposit the money), you'll need to return the whole amount to the IRS. After the agency processes the returned payment, it will issue a new check with the correct amount for you.
For the third check, it depends on which tax return the IRS uses. If it uses your 2019 tax return, you'll likely get to keep the amount you received for the person who has died.
If you already cashed or deposited the stimulus payment you got, here's how the IRS wants you to return it
If you've already cashed or deposited your check, here's what to do.
1. Use a personal check or money order and make the check payable to the US Treasury. You'll also need to write "2020 EIP" and include the taxpayer identification number or Social Security number of the person whose name is on the check.
2. On a separate piece of paper, let the IRS know why you're sending the check back.