Stimulus checks for coronavirus
Stimulus checks for coronavirus

Am I Required to File My Taxes to Get a Stimulus Check?

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This content is for the first coronavirus relief package, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (The CARES Act), which was signed into law in March 2020. For information on the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, the second coronavirus relief package signed into law on December 27, 2020, please visit the “New Coronavirus Relief Package: What Does it Mean for You and a Second Stimulus Check” blog post.

Under the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), stimulus checks are set to be issued to individuals to provide financial relief.  

According to the IRS, approximately 80% of Americans will be eligible to receive full or partial payments through the CARES Act – up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for joint taxpayers and an additional $500 for each qualifying child under 17. The amount of Stimulus check you receive will be based on your adjusted gross income information from your most recent tax filings, either 2019 or 2018 if you have not yet filed this season. 

In case you are not required to file a tax return, TurboTax just launched a free Stimulus Registration product to help you provide the IRS with the necessary information so that you can still receive your stimulus check even though you are not required to file a return.

But you may be wondering, what are the IRS requirements to file a tax return to get a stimulus check?

First, if you receive Social Security income for retirement or survivor or disability benefits (SSDI), and Railroad Retirement benefits reported on form SSA-1099 or RRB-1099, the IRS and Treasury stated that you don’t need to do anything to receive a stimulus check. You will receive your stimulus check based on information from your SSA-1099 or RRB-1099. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who don’t file tax returns will also automatically receive stimulus payments with no further action needed on their part. The IRS projects the payments for this group will go out no later than early May. The Treasury Department, not the Social Security Administration, will make these automatic payments to SSI recipients. Recipients will generally receive the automatic payments by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their SSI benefits.

Veterans and their beneficiaries who receive Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefit payments from VA who don’t usually file a tax return and didn’t  file their tax year 2018 or tax year 2019 taxes also don’t need to do anything and will automatically receive their $1,200 stimulus check.

Here is a simple break down to help you figure out if you need to file a return or submit your information to the IRS using the TurboTax Stimulus Registration product.

Who is Required to File a Tax Return for a Stimulus Check?

Here are examples of cases where you are required to file a return:

  • Taxpayers who earn income more than the IRS income filing threshold ($12,200 single, $18,350 Head of Household, $24,400 married filing jointly).*Note if you are single and 65+ thresholds are bumped up $1,650 for 65+ or blind and if you are married filing jointly, 65+ thresholds are $1,300 more for 65+ or blind
  • Self-Employed whose net income is $400 or more since they need to pay self-employment taxes on income of $400 or more
  • Dependents with unearned income more than $1,100 and earned income more than $12,200
  • You received an advance payment of the health coverage tax credit
  • You owe taxes on an IRA or Health Savings Account

Who is Not Required to File a Tax Return and Can Submit Information for a Stimulus Check Using the TurboTax Stimulus Registration Product?

  • Income is under the IRS income filing threshold ($12,200 single, $18,350 Head of Household, $24,400 married filing jointly)

*Note, if you receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits, SSI or Veteran Affairs benefits you will automatically receive a stimulus check and you don’t need to do anything, however if you have qualifying dependent children you will need to get that information to the IRS as soon as possible. Some beneficiaries in this group have a limited window to register to have $500 per eligible child added automatically to their soon-to-be-received $1,200 Economic Impact Payment. The IRS April 20 alert suggest registering information for your dependent using the IRS  special non-filer tool  by noon Eastern time, Wednesday, April 22, so that you get all of your eligible stimulus payment in one payment.  You can also register your dependent’s information using TurboTax free Stimulus Registration Product.  Otherwise, your payment at this time will be $1,200 and, by law, the additional $500 per eligible child amount would be paid in association with your return filing for tax year 2020.

The first window affects Social Security Income and Railroad Retirement Benefit recipients with children. SSI and VA recipients have slightly more time to provide the IRS with dependent child information to add $500 to automatic payments.  The IRS does, however, encourage SSI and VA recipients to also register their dependent information as soon as possible.  Once your $1,200 payment is issued you will not be eligible to add information about your dependent child/children and you will have to file a 2020 tax return to receive the additional $500 per dependent child.

Not Required to Submit a Tax Return but May Want To

There are some situations where you make under the IRS income filing threshold, but you had federal taxes withheld and you may also be eligible for refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit or the partially refundable Child Tax Credit. In these situations, you may still want to file because the only way you’re going to get your refund is to file a return.  

The IRS reports that every year they have close to $1 billion in unclaimed tax refunds and the average unclaimed refund is close to $800. Some of these unclaimed refunds belong to taxpayers who don’t file their tax returns.

If you are required to file your taxes or are a taxpayer that had federal taxes withheld but make under the income threshold, you are encouraged to file your taxes since the majority of taxpayers receive a refund.  

Last tax season, close to 72% of taxpayers received a tax refund and the average refund was close to $3,000. The IRS expects to issue nine out of 10 tax refunds within 21 days or less of acceptance if you e-file with direct deposit. 

By the time TurboTax walks you through all of the deductions and credits you’re eligible for you may be getting a bigger refund than you expect. Coupled with the Stimulus check that can mean a lot of money in your pocket very soon.

Also, you can connect live via one-way video to our TurboTax Live CPAs and Enrolled Agents with an average of 15 years experience to get your questions answered from the comfort of home. TurboTax Live CPAs and Enrolled Agents are available in English and Spanish, year round and can also review, sign, and file your return.

(Update as of 10/9/20: the TurboTax Stimulus Registration tool for non-filers will be available until October 16, 2020, and the IRS Non-Filer tool will be available until November 21, 2020)

Lisa Greene-Lewis

Lisa has over 20 years of experience in tax preparation. Her success is attributed to being able to interpret tax laws and help clients better understand them. She has held positions as a public auditor, controller, and operations manager. Lisa has appeared on the Steve Harvey Show, the Ellen Show, and major news broadcast to break down tax laws and help taxpayers understand what tax laws mean to them. For Lisa, getting timely and accurate information out to taxpayers to help them keep more of their money is paramount. More from Lisa Greene-Lewis

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