Answers to the Most Common Stimulus Check Questions

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Need answers about the federal government’s latest stimulus checks and what it means for you? Here are the answers to some of the most-searched questions on Google:

Will there be another stimulus check?

The answer depends on what you mean by “another.” If you’re talking about a follow-up to the second round of checks that hit around the New Year—the $600 ones—then yes, you’re likely to receive, or have already received, another payment for up to $1,400 per person under the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law last week.

As for whether there will be a fourth round of checks, no one can say, though there’s been no such discussion on our radar. President Joe Biden is just about to start touring the country to promote the latest package of pandemic relief measures. 

When will the stimulus checks arrive?

You might want to check your bank account.

As of Wednesday, the federal government had issued approximately 90 million payments totalling more than $242 billion. Some even saw direct deposits showing up in their accounts as early as last Friday.

Don’t see anything yet? Most Americans won’t have to take any action in order to receive their payment, but the Get My Payment tool on the IRS website should show you the status of your payment.

Is the stimulus check a loan?

No. That money—technically a tax rebate—is yours to spend or save as you wish. The one caveat is if you owe money to lenders, in which case, they may be able to take it. (See ‘Can creditors take my check?’ below.)

Do you have to pay back the stimulus check?

No. Even if you received more than you would have if you had already filed your 2020 tax return, you won’t have to pay anything back, the IRS says.

Is the stimulus check taxable?

No. The payment is not taxable on your federal income tax return. It also will not affect income eligibility for federal government assistance or benefit programs.

Who gets stimulus checks? Do college students get stimulus checks? Will retirees get a stimulus check?

Anyone who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien, has a valid Social Security number, and is not a dependent of another taxpayer is eligible as long as they meet the income qualifications.  

So if you are a college student whose parents still claim you as a dependent, then no, you won’t get a check. Your parents will, though. Taxpayers will get up to $1,400 for themselves as well as each of their dependents. And for the first time in this round of checks, that includes adult dependents like college students or older relatives.

So yes, retirees get checks too, as long as they aren’t claimed as a dependent on their children’s or someone else’s taxes. 

How much will I get?

The amount depends on how much money you make. Full payments of $1,400 per person, including per dependent, will go to: 

  • Individual taxpayers, or single filers, with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or less  
  • Heads of household with an AGI of $112,500 or less
  • Married couples filing jointly with an AGI of $150,000 or less

If your income is higher than the limit, you are eligible for a reduced payment if you fall into these brackets:

  • Individual taxpayers with an AGI between $75,001 and $80,000 
  • Heads of household with an AGI between $112,501 and $120,000
  • Married couples filing jointly with an AGI between $150,001 and $160,000

Anyone making more than these upper limits won't get a stimulus check.

Where can I cash my check?

Stimulus “checks” are a misnomer for most people, since the vast majority of stimulus payments will be made via direct deposit into your bank account, so you won’t get a paper check that needs cashing.

But, if the IRS does not have bank account information for you, you will probably be sent either a debit card or a paper check in the mail in the coming weeks. (The IRS will not add funds to an old debit card.) Like normal checks, the paper checks can be cashed at any bank where you hold an account. 

If you don’t have a bank account, you can use a check-cashing service like Paypal’s or Walmart’s and even put the money on a debit card. Paypal has waived its normal check-cashing fees for stimulus checks.

Is it too late to file for a stimulus check?

Most people don’t have to file for anything. The IRS should send the payment to you automatically, either through direct deposit into your bank account or via mail in the form of a check or debit card. The Get My Payment tool on the IRS website should show you the status of your payment.

However, if you didn’t get the first two checks or the full amount you were eligible for, you may be able to get that money in the form of a credit when you file your 2020 taxes. 

Who can I call about my stimulus check?

The IRS suggests you avoid calling, and instead use the Get My Payment tool to check the status of your payment. In fact, the IRS has typically said phone representatives won’t have any more information than what’s on the agency’s website. There are also FAQs online

Will I get a stimulus check if I owe taxes or child support?

Yes, you’ll still receive the full amount due to you, even if you have debts to federal agencies like the IRS or owe child support. However, if for some reason you don’t receive your payment in 2021 and instead claim it on your taxes a year from now, the funds could be used to offset those debts.

Can debt collectors take my check?

Maybe. Borrowers who are subject to garnishment because of legal judgements against them are certainly more exposed this time than they were under the last round of stimulus payments. The legislation authorizing the second round of checks expressly protected them from being tapped by private debt collectors, but there is no such safeguard in the American Rescue Plan. 

Lawmakers and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) did take steps on Wednesday to change this, however. A group of Democratic senators introduced a bill that would add protections similar to those afforded for the second round of checks, and the CFPB said it’s urging banks to keep the money in people’s accounts where it can be used by those struggling. The CFPB is advising people to call their bank if there’s an issue.

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