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New stimulus check qualifications could change again. Here's what we know

The requirements could once again shift before the stimulus bill passes and goes into effect. We're tracking what we know so far and what could change in a third check. We also share qualifications for the second check, if you're waiting for that, too.

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The eligibility rules could shift with the third stimulus payment in a big way. There's a lot to know.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you thought you knew the qualifications for the third stimulus check, think again. One of the most important rules may still be up in the air, creating an important new eligibility cutoff for individuals and families. Now that the Senate has taken the wheel of the $1.9 trillion relief package, we'll start to see amendments to the House's version of the bill -- which passed last week -- including changes to the stimulus formula.

The latest change would lower the income limit to further "target" the check, which could affect the amount you receive or even make you ineligible for a payment. However, if your AGI is under that cutoff, you could still qualify for thousands of dollars more than you did with the first two payments (new tax breaks for children and older adults could also bring your family more money). But be aware that your eligibility could be affected by whether the IRS will use your 2019 or 2020 tax return to determine your payment.

We have information on how your agemarital statuscitizenship and tax status could affect your payment, as well as details for nonfilers, people with babies born in 2020 and families in child-support situations. While we wait to see how qualifications could change in the Senate, here's how to claim your missing stimulus money from the IRS (or file a payment trace). In the meantime, here's everything we know about eligibility and your stimulus money. This story is frequently updated.

More people could qualify for the third check, based on the House-approved bill, but Senate alterations leave others out

The proposal now with the Senate would keep the income limit for individuals and families who'd qualify for a full stimulus payment the same as it was for the first two rounds of checks. The Senate, however, may change the upper cap for who would no longer receive any money. Use our calculator to determine how much you could get.

Third stimulus check: Proposed qualifications

Qualifying group What's proposed
Individuals An AGI of less than $80,000 to qualify for any payment amount
Head of household An AGI of less than $120,000 to qualify for any payment amount
Couple filing jointly An AGI less than $160,000 to qualify for any payment amount
Dependents of all ages $1,400 apiece, no cap -- but only if guardians make under the above limits
Families with mixed US citizenship Provided they meet other qualifications
US citizens living abroad Yes, same as first two checks
Citizens of US territories Yes, same as first two checks, with payments handled by each territory
SSDI and other tax nonfilers Yes, but may require an extra step to claim (more below)
Incarcerated people Initially excluded by IRS interpretation, but now included by court order
People who owe child support Excluded under CARES, but included in second check
Disqualified groups Not covered by law
Non-US citizens "Resident aliens" aren't included
Noncitizens who pay taxes Possibly, depending on "mixed-status" rules (more below)

Because the third stimulus checks are expected to max out at $1,400 -- $200 more than the first round -- some people who didn't qualify for any previous stimulus money may actually get a small check this time. Here's the income limit to qualify for the full amount under this plan, based on your AGI.

In the first round, single taxpayers earning $99,000 or more received nothing. According to CNET's third stimulus check calculator, if a bill passes with the most recent guidelines, a single taxpayer earning $99,000 would again not receive a check. Still, nothing is final until a new bill is passed and signed into law.

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Dependents are still on track to be eligible for the entire $1,400 amount

With the second stimulus check, each child dependent -- age 16 and younger -- added $600 each to the household payment. There was no cap on how many children you could claim for a payment. That total increased the amount per child from $500 in the first check, even as the per-adult maximum decreased from $1,200 per adult to $600 in the December stimulus plan.

If you're a parent of a baby born in 2020, you could be entitled to $1,100 -- that is if you never received the first two payments for your new dependent last year. 

The new proposal would send $1,400 to dependents in the third round of payments

Overall, more dependents of any age could qualify for a $1,400 payment

The stimulus bill would open up eligibility requirements to both child and adult dependents. Dependents over age 16 didn't qualify for the first and second checks, but a change here would make college students, older adult relatives and people of any age with certain disabilities entitled to receive money as part of the household total.

That change, if it becomes law, would include roughly 13.5 million adult dependents who weren't counted before, according to the People's Policy Project.

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The final qualifications for a third stimulus check are still being settled.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Rules for 'mixed-status' households may change again once all the details are finalized

In the $900 billion stimulus package from December, a US citizen and noncitizen spouse were both eligible for a payment as long as they each had Social Security numbers. This has been referred to as a "mixed-status" household when it comes to citizenship. Households with mixed US citizenship were left out of the first check.

The proposal would include all mixed-status households where just one member has a Social Security number for a third stimulus check. That potentially includes families with citizen children and noncitizen parents.

It's unclear if these previously excluded groups would receive the maximum amount. As we saw with the second stimulus check, dramatic changes can and do happen in the final moments of negotiation.

In the CARES Act from March, households with a person who wasn't a US citizen weren't eligible to receive a stimulus check, even if one spouse and a child were US citizens. 

Noncitizens weren't eligible to receive the first two checks, but may qualify this time

The CARES Act made a Social Security number a requirement for that first stimulus payment. Though other proposals would've expanded the eligibility to those with an ITIN instead of a Social Security number because they're classified as a resident or nonresident alien, this group was excluded in the final bill text that authorized a second stimulus check in December as well. 

Congress has proposed expanding the qualifications to include all mixed-status families -- where at least one member has a Social Security number -- for a third check. However, on Feb. 4, the Senate passed an amendment blocking stimulus payments from going to undocumented immigrants. (This has no impact on eligibility for mixed-status families.) While the amendment isn't binding, it seems unlikely that senators will change their position now that they're on the record, according to The Hill.

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The definition of a child dependent didn't change with a second stimulus check, but it could shift with a third.

Angela Lang/CNET

What to know about past-due child support and getting a third stimulus check

If you owed child support, your first stimulus payment could have been taken for arrears (the amount you owed). With the second check, those who owed child support didn't have their payment garnished to cover past-due payments. It's unlikely we'll see the third stimulus check walk this back.

However, one exception seems to be for people who are missing payments of any amount and need to claim the stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit in their taxes. The protection from garnishment laid out in the second check doesn't extend to catch-up payments made in the Recovery Rebate Credit, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent government agency that works with the IRS. That means that all or part of stimulus money received this way could potentially be seized to pay outstanding debts. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is urging the IRS to keep rebate credits intact.

Current law says people who are in jail or prison can qualify for stimulus money

After months of back and forth, the IRS was ordered by a federal judge to send the first stimulus checks to people who are incarcerated. They aren't excluded from the new law, which means eligibility for this group currently stands. It's unclear if there will be any more details in the third stimulus check bill, though this is more likely to continue as a matter of interpretation, as it is now.

Your next stimulus payment may be based on this if you're considered an older adult by the IRS or are retired 

Many older adults, including retirees over age 65, received a first stimulus check under the CARES Act and are eligible for a second one -- and likely a third, too. For older adults and retired people, factors like your tax filingsyour AGI, your pension and if you're part of the SSI or SSDI program (more below) will affect if you receive a stimulus payment. 

The third stimulus check could make older adult dependents eligible to receive more money on behalf of the household. Here's how to determine if you qualify for your own stimulus check or count as a dependent.

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How much stimulus money you could get depends on who you are.

Angela Lang/CNET

Nonfilers have to take an extra step this year: File taxes to get their missing stimulus checks

With the second payment, the IRS used your 2019 tax returns to determine eligibility. Non-filers, who weren't required to file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019, may still be eligible to receive the first stimulus check under the CARES Act. And this group will qualify again. Here are reasons you might not have been required to file:

If you still haven't received a first or second check even though you were eligible, you can claim it on your taxes in 2021 as a Recovery Rebate Credit.

SSI and SSDI recipients should still be eligible for stimulus payments

Those who are part of the SSI or SSDI programs qualified for a check under the CARES Act. Recipients wouldn't receive their payments via their Direct Express card, which the government typically uses to distribute federal benefits, but through a non-Direct Express bank account or as a paper check. SSDI recipients can file next year to request a payment for themselves and their dependents.

In the December bill, these recipients again qualified to receive payments, along with Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans Administration beneficiaries. It's likely that these qualifications would remain the same with a potential third check.

Here's how your taxes and stimulus check eligibility work together

For most people, taxes and stimulus checks are tightly related. For example, the most important factor in setting income limits is your AGI, which determines how much of the total stimulus payment you would be entitled to receive. The same will hold true with a third stimulus check.

Stimulus check proposal for income limits


Full $1,400 per person maximum (based on AGI) Not eligible (based on AGI)
Single taxpayer Less than $75,000 $80,000 or more
Head of household Less than $112,500 $120,000 or more
Married couple filing jointly Less than $150,000 $160,000 or more

Here's what we know about whether Congress will use your 2019 tax information to determine your payment or if it will look at your 2020 tax returns to set your check amount -- and what happens if you get too much money or not enough because of it.

For more information, here are the top things to know about stimulus checks today, everything you need to understand about stimulus checks and your taxes and what's happening with a third stimulus check now.