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Stimulus checks arrive, but many have questions: Q&A on federal stimulus checks

Posted April 15, 2020 10:12 a.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2020 5:28 p.m. EDT

— Many people woke up on Wednesday morning to discover their stimulus funds had arrived. Around 80 million Americans are slated to receive their money today through direct deposit.

However, many people have questions and confusion surrounding how to access their money. The IRS website is running slowly, giving some users the message: Please wait: Due to high demand you may have to wait longer than usual to access this site.

We've collected some of the main questions and provided answers here.

Stimulus checks Q&A

1. Who exactly can expect payments this week?

This week's payments are going to people who filed taxes in 2018 or 2019 -- and gave the IRS their direct deposit information.

David Wilmot said, "I had to do absolutely nothing. It just appeared in my account."

For security reasons, the IRS plans to mail a letter about the economic impact payment to the taxpayer’s last known address within 15 days after the payment is paid. The letter will provide information on how the payment was made and how to report any failure to receive the payment.

2. How much money can you expect to arrive?

  • Individuals who earn $75,000 or less will receive $1,200.
  • Married couples making $150,000 or less will receive a payment of $2,400.
  • Add an additional $500 for each child you have.

Banks and financial establishments you can check on your check:

Jackson Hewitt | Turbo Tax | H&R Block

3. Who needs to visit the IRS website?

For most people who filed taxes for 2018 and 2019, the deposit should be automatic. However, some people may need to visit the IRS website to update their address or direct deposit information.

4. How do I check the status of my payment?

The IRS has launched an app to allow you to check how much you will get and when and how to expect it.

Here's how it should work: You go to the site, enter your Social Security Number, birth date and address, and learn when your stimulus funds will be deposited or mailed.

When the portal opened, a surge of demand meant some people encountered delays, a site that was down or a message that their payment status was not available.

"When you get an error message or a message that does not let you do what you're supposed to be able to do, it's just frustrating," said Angela Goins of Raleigh.

Plenty of those trying to check on their payment got a "status not available" message when looking for stimulus updates.

The IRS says that message means means one four things:

  1. You’re not eligible for s stimulus payment
  2. You haven’t yet filed 2018 or 2019 taxes
  3. Your recent income tax return is still processing
  4. Or, for those who receive supplemental benefits, the IRS is working to issue your payment.

5. What happens if you didn't file taxes in 2018 or 2019?

Your stimulus check should still arrive as a paper check by mail. Make sure the IRS has your updated address. You can do that securely on the IRS website.

People who don't use a direct deposit will receive paper checks in the mail. However, it will take longer for those checks to arrive. An internal memo reviewed by the Washington Post said the lowest earners would receive checks first. People who qualify for stimulus payments and are among the highest earners will likely have to wait until September for their mailed checks to arrive.

6. What happens if you are on Social Security?

Social Security recipients will get automatic payments, even if they have not filed a return.

As long as they received an SSA-1099 form (the Social Security benefit statement), the government will send them a payment to the bank account information already on file. People with benefits from Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI) and Railroad Retirement who otherwise qualify will not need to file a new tax return to receive their check.

7. Is this stimulus check subject to income tax?

The IRS said the payments are NOT taxable income. Because they're refundable tax credits, people who don't typically file tax returns qualify to receive the checks, according to independent think tank the Tax Foundation.

The IRS stimulus check is in addition to what you'd already get back in any tax refund for 2020. It's NOT a portion of your 2020 tax refund that you're receiving early.

8. What happens if you got your tax return on a prepaid debit card?

Some get tax returns on prepaid debit cards. For people who got their refunds on those cards, tax preparers like Turbo Tax and H&R Block say they are still waiting on information from the IRS about its plans. They say they will update their websites with more information.

Be sure to look up your information on the IRS Website to get a better idea of what to expect in your specific situation.

9. Can college students expect money?

Under the law, people who are 17 or older and claimed as a dependent on another tax return are NOT eligible.

Parents who have a qualifying child 16 or younger are eligible to receive an additional $500 for each child.

But if your child is 17 or older, neither parents nor child are eligible for the additional payments.

10. Is the stimulus money a loan?

If all the information in your tax return is accurate, you will not have to repay the check next spring when tax season rolls around, CNBC reported.

It's also possible to receive more money upon filing 2020 taxes. Even though the checks are based on 2018 or 2019 returns, technically, they are a credit on 2020 tax returns. If you end up needing to receive a larger tax credit based on your adjusted gross income for 2020, you'll get the difference in 2021.

"If a taxpayer's income drops in 2020, they will be eligible for any remaining rebate credit they were not able to claim using their 2019 or 2018 return," the Tax Foundation said.

The think tank also said the IRS won't penalize you if your 2020 adjusted gross income is more than your AGI this year.

11. Is there a way to get my stimulus payment faster?

The IRS will not email or call taxpayers, even to verify information. If you get such a call, hang up. Don't click any links in emails that claim to be related to the stimulus payments.

The IRS will not require a fee or payment to confirm any information or to disburse stimulus funds.

There is no way to get your payment faster, so don't pay or give information to any person or service offering that.

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