Under the $900 billion coronavirus relief package that Congress passed at the end of December, the IRS had until Jan. 15 to issue the $600 stimulus payments. Now that the deadline has passed, Americans who are eligible to receive the money but haven't yet must claim it as a credit on their 2020 returns.
If you don't receive the cash payment -- or get the wrong amount -- then you can claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return. The IRS on Friday opened up Free File, free online tax preparation software, for taxpayers to prepare and file their income tax returns. Americans can also claim their stimulus check using the tool.
The IRS will begin accepting returns on Feb. 12 — typically the agency opens tax season at the end of January — because it needs more time to ensure its systems can handle the credits that apply to the second stimulus payments.
"This start date will ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly as possible," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said.
The Free File tool is available to anyone who earned $72,000 or less in 2020.
American adults who earned less than $75,000 in 2019 will receive the full $600 check, while couples who earned less than $150,000 will receive $1,200. The payments will be tapered for higher earners (5% of the amount by which their adjusted gross incomes exceeded the initial threshold) and phased out completely for individuals who earn more than $87,000 and couples who earn more than $174,000.
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The federal government also issued a $1,200 payment earlier this year with similar eligibility criteria. If you did not receive the first check, you can also use your tax return to claim the money.
"For 2021, eligible taxpayers who did not receive the full amount can claim it as the Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return," the IRS said. "Use IRS Free File to file and claim this important benefit."
Some Americans aren't eligible to receive the cash payment: College students and dependents over the age of 17 won't receive the money, nor will immigrants who don't have a Social Security number. Some highern earners who received a check during the first round of stimulus payments will also not qualify for the second round.
You can use the IRS' Get My Payment tool to check the status of your stimulus check.
The federal government has already deposited more than 100 million stimulus payments into recipients' accounts, the IRS said. About 8 million will arrive via mail in the form of a prepaid debit card.