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How a second stimulus check could snag you more money than the first

Congress has yet to agree to anything, but we've gathered clues from earlier proposals and changes the IRS has made to get an idea of what to expect with another payment.

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Could your next stimulus check be bigger than the first? We can make an estimate.

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Nothing has happened just yet, but if Congress does tee up a new coronavirus relief bill before the end of 2020, you'll want to know if it contains a second stimulus check (it could also drop another payment) and how much money you could expect to get. In several cases, your second check could be larger than the first

If another direct payment is approved, changes to the requirements mean you and your dependents may actually qualify for more money than you did before -- whenever it is that a check might arrive. Not everyone will be eligible to receive more stimulus money, of course. And it's also possible you could see a smaller sum in the next check if your life circumstances changed.

Keep reading for everything we know about how a second stimulus payment could equal a bigger check for you. If no stimulus bill passes at all, here are the stimulus steps President-elect Joe Biden could take after his inauguration. This story updates often.

How much larger your second payment could be

Again, we won't know the rules for sure until a bill is signed into law. But we do know some possibilities, based on previous proposals and possibly even the most recent Republican offerings. For most people, the total amount you're likely to receive is based on your adjusted gross income, or AGI, and other eligibility requirements.

Here's how much more stimulus money you could potentially see if...

More people qualify as a dependent: The Democratic proposal for the next bill expands the definition of "dependent" to include anyone you can claim on your tax returns -- such as children over 16 and adults under your care. By today's sums, that's $500 more per person you support, with potentially no cap. If you had one dependent who qualified in the first round and three that qualify in the second, that would get your family $1,000 more if you had no other changes.

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Child dependents get more money: The most recent White House proposal would keep the same age restriction for children, but double the payout to $1,000. So if you have one dependent, your second check could be $500 larger.

You gain another dependent: If you had or adopted a child, you may see $500 to $1,000 more, depending on the final bill.

Your employment status changed: If you became unemployed this year or your wages dropped, that could lower your AGI, which is used to determine the payment. For example, if you got a partial payment with the first check, you may receive a full payment if you are no longer employed.

You got married: Depending on several variables that include your spouse's filing status and any new dependents, a change in marital status could result in a larger check. For example, if you were single and filing alone, you got $1,200 max. Married, you could be eligible for $2,400 maximum, since the IRS formula used to determine your total stimulus money is based on your combined household income.

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The amount of stimulus money you could get in a second round of checks is still undetermined. 

James Martin/CNET

You now share custody of a child: If you meet specific qualifications, you and the child's other parent may both be entitled to claim extra stimulus money. That means you could get $500 more in the second check, especially if anything in your situation changes from the time you filed your 2018 tax return to 2019. The second check allowance will be based on your most recent tax filing.

A rule change concerning incarcerated people becomes permanent: A federal judge has ruled that the IRS owes stimulus checks to inmates in prison who qualify. If the ruling stands, these people may be entitled to a second stimulus check of up to $1,200, as well as the first. That's a potential $2,400 total for individuals, with more potential money for dependents.

You're an "undocumented immigrant": Democrats propose that undocumented US residents should be eligible for stimulus relief funds if they pay taxes, as part of the Heroes Act that passed the House of Representatives in two forms, but which is not law. If that qualification goes through, it could mean that some people who did not get a check as part of the CARES Act could get a second check. If it works retroactively, individuals may be eligible for both payments. This is contingent, along with the rest of the stimulus check qualifications, on the details of a new law.

There's a potential for $1,200-$2,400 for this group, with more for dependents. For a married couple with two young children who didn't receive the first check, the second round could possibly yield as much as $3,400.

Keep reading below for how you could get less money than before.

With a rule change, your family could get much more

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

Looking for more stimulus check information? Here's the status with negotiations today, and here's what you need to know about stimulus checks and older adults, and if you're in a child support situation