Stimulus checks: 11 must-know facts to clear up the confusion
Current answers on everything you need to know about the $1,400 stimulus checks, from how to see your status to where to turn in case of a problem.
Clifford ColbyManaging Editor
Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
ExpertiseTech from browser security to password managers and government programs from mail-in voting to federal assistance
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds.
Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
ExpertiseContent strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
There's a third option as well. Social Security beneficiaries such as SSI, SSDI and recipients of veterans benefits could get their stimulus payments as a Direct Express card. Social Security recipients are starting to get their checks the week of April 5.
If the IRS underestimated the size of your check, you could receive a "plus-up" payment. For example, if your income was lower in 2020 than it was 2019 of if you added new child or dependent on their 2020 tax return, you might qualify for more money than the IRS sent you if it calculated your payment based on your 2019 taxes. These ongoing payments started with those with those received their checks in March.
Watch this: Stimulus check 3: How much money you'll get
Hold-ups will happen, and finding help may not be easy
One example would be if you gained a dependent in 2020 -- including a new baby -- but the IRS bases your stimulus check on your 2019 tax return. (Read more below for which tax year the IRS will use for you.)
The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill opens the qualifications to roughly 13.5 million more dependents for a third stimulus payment -- for $1,400 apiece -- than the first two payments did by expanding the definition of a dependent. With the new check, any dependent -- child or adult -- would count toward a payment. With the first check and the second, Congress included children age 16 and under but excluded dependents 17 and older.
There's a strict income limit for the third stimulus payment
The third stimulus check comes with a $1,400-per-person maximum. To "target" or restrict the third check to lower- and middle-income households, the legislation includes eligibility rules that exclude individuals and families at the highest income levels. An individual with an AGI (adjusted gross income) of at least $80,000 a year would hit the payment cutoff, as would a head of household earning $120,000 and a couple filing jointly with an AGI of $160,000.
A third stimulus check makes more groups of people eligible to receive money (namely noncitizens who pay taxes) and bring a larger total check to qualified individuals and their families, including $1,400 payments to dependents. A change in your circumstances can also mean you qualify for more money this time. Here are other ways a third stimulus check could put more money in your pocket.
Eligibility guidelines have expanded for this check