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Stimulus checks for 2020 babies: Eligible parents could get an extra $1,100

Parents of 2020 babies might be in for another bundle of joy when they file their tax return this year: An extra stimulus check payment.

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If the IRS didn't know you had a baby in 2020, you could qualify for $1,100 more in stimulus money than you thought.

Angela Lang/CNET

After a whirlwind series of negotiations, the 2021 stimulus bill was finally signed into law by President Joe Biden and third stimulus checks have already begun hitting bank accounts (here's how to calculate how much you're owed and track your payment). In the meantime, millions of Americans have still not received their first or second checks. Among them are new parents, specifically those who welcomed a child in 2020. 

While there are many reasons your stimulus check might have gone missing (not to mention new eligibility rules and a complicated IRS formula that has made many Americans ineligible altogether), the missing checks for 2020 babies, totaling $1,100 for some families, have a simple explanation. 

Why the sudden windfall? Since the first and second stimulus checks were based on your most recent tax return, any dependents born or adopted after filing were not included in stimulus eligibility, because they weren't "known" to the IRS at the time those checks were cut. (This means some parents of 2019 babies should expect additional stimulus money, too, if they didn't file a 2019 return in time.) This bonus stimulus money is in addition to the expanded Child Tax Credit and other tax breaks for parents, not to mention the amount your new baby could qualify for in a third round of stimulus payments. We'll tell you what you need to know and how to claim your missing money. 

How much extra stimulus money can parents of 2020 babies expect to receive?

The third stimulus check will grant parents a maximum of $1,400 per qualifying dependent. But parents of babies born in 2020 are actually eligible for more than just this $1,400 check -- an extra $1,100 could be coming your way even if you don't qualify for the third check, as long as you met all the requirements for the first two stimulus checks. (Here are all the major differences between the first, second and third stimulus checks.)

The first stimulus check, which began hitting mailboxes and bank accounts last April, maxed out at $500 per qualifying dependent, while the second check, sent in December, had a $600 cap. That equals $1,100 if you had a dependent.

Assuming you met eligibility requirements for full benefits from both checks, couples filing jointly with one dependent child would be entitled to $1,200 each from the first check, plus $500 for your child, and $600 each from the second check, plus another $600 for your child, totaling $4,700 maximum when you add up both checks. 

But for 2020 babies, the total received was probably only $3,600 (assuming you're not missing stimulus check money for other reasons), a shortfall of $1,100 for your new baby -- $500 from check No. 1, and $600 from check No. 2. But you can still claim that money retroactively by filing it on your 2020 tax return (more below). 

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Parents of 2020 babies should file their tax returns ASAP

There's a simple way to recoup missing stimulus money for qualified dependents -- any missing stimulus money, actually: File your 2020 tax return as soon as possible. In fact, your 2020 tax return is the mechanism for updating anything that has changed in your stimulus eligibility since the passing of the CARES Act. That's because once your 2020 return is on file, the IRS will use your new information to process future stimulus benefits. You can also set up direct deposit with the IRS when you file your return if you haven't already, to ensure you get your next stimulus check as quickly as possible.

How to claim missing dependent stimulus money when you file taxes

Before you prepare your 2020 tax return, you need to calculate how much stimulus check money you were owed and determine how much you actually received. Any discrepancies between the two numbers can be claimed through the Recovery Rebate Credit on your return. (That is, unless you received more than you were owed. Here are all the reasons you may actually have to return stimulus money to the IRS.) 

If your missing stimulus money is the result of an IRS error or other mistake, a payment trace will likely be a better avenue for hunting down your check. But if you merely need to claim a new dependent, the Recovery Rebate Credit is what you're looking for.

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New parents will need to act fast to claim missing stimulus money for their infants.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What about a third stimulus check for your dependents?

The third round of stimulus payments included an additional $1,400 for each qualifying dependent -- and the definition of dependent was loosened this time around to include dependents of all ages. But by now if you haven't filed your 2020 return yet, it is likely too late to get a third check for 2020 babies. The IRS has already begun sending checks, so you may have to wait until you file your 2021 return next year to claim that money retroactively.

You'll still be able to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit to recoup payments from the first and second stimulus checks, however, but your dependent benefits for the third check will have to wait, unfortunately. (Here are all the ways a third check arriving during tax season will affect you, and potential stimulus tax pitfalls to avoid.)

All the other dependent benefits you should know about

You're likely already aware of the Child Tax Credit, which previously granted taxpayers an extra $2,000 per child. But did you know that in the American Rescue Plan, this credit has been expanded to $3,600 per child under 6 years old, and $3,000 per child up to age 17? The bill also includes expanded tax credits for child care and other dependent benefits. Here's everything to know about benefits for parents in the third stimulus bill.

I received stimulus money for my 2020 baby -- what do I do now?

If you find yourself in the fortunate position of not needing to use your stimulus check money to meet household expenses, it's never too early to start thinking about your child's future education. You can set up a 529 plan in your child's name, and it'll grow tax-free (just like a Roth IRA) as long as it's eventually used for qualifying education expenses. Here are some other good ways to put your stimulus check money to use.