The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will begin sending stimulus checks to millions of Americans this week, part of the federal government’s efforts to prop up the economy while many businesses are struggling or shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, calls for payments of up to $1,200 for every American with a Social Security number who isn’t considered a dependent.
The amount each person or family receives in their stimulus check will depend on their financial circumstances. Individuals or heads of household can receive up to $1,200, while married couples filing jointly can receive up to $2,400. But those with higher incomes will receive less stimulus money — individuals who make between $75,000 and $99,000, for instance, will receive less than the full $1,200. And those with incomes above certain limits will not receive a stimulus check at all. Individuals who make more than $99,000, heads of household who make more than $136,500, and married couples filing jointly who make more than $198,000 will not receive a stimulus check. People will also receive $500 per child under the age of 17, and can get up to $3,400 for a family of four. (Here’s a helpful calculator for estimating your payout.)
Unlike your tax return, these checks will largely be sent out with no action required on your part. “The vast majority of people won’t have to do anything to get their recovery rebate because the IRS already has their information on file and will automatically send payments to these individuals,” Erica York, an economist at the nonprofit Tax Foundation, says via email.
Some circumstances can disqualify you from receiving a stimulus check. While the CARES Act postponed debt on student loans and back taxes, it didn’t apply to delinquent child support payments. So if you’re behind on child support, the government can garnish your check, USA Today reports. Furthermore, you won’t receive a payment if someone lists you as a dependent on their tax return, or if you don’t have a valid Social Security number — meaning immigrants with green cards or H-1B and H-2A visas can receive payments but non-resident aliens cannot, per NBC News.
Here’s what to know about getting your stimulus check.
When is my stimulus check coming?
That depends on whether you gave the IRS your direct deposit information when you filed your 2018 or 2019 federal tax returns. If you did, the agency will use that information to automatically deposit your stimulus check into your bank account. Keep an eye out for those funds: the Treasury Department expects that over 80 million Americans will receive their payments via direct deposit by April 15. If you didn’t provide your direct deposit information with your tax returns, the IRS will send you a paper check in the mail. But that will take longer than direct deposit to reach you. The IRS plans to begin mailing checks out shortly, although it does not have concrete dates set, an IRS spokesperson tells TIME.
At that rate, it could take up to five months for everyone to get their paper checks, says York.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that the Treasury Department has ordered that President Trump’s name be printed on the paper checks. According to the Post, this move may delay their delivery by a few days. The IRS directed TIME’s request for comment to the Treasury Department, which did not immediately respond. But Treasury officials told the Post that the move would not delay the checks’ delivery.
The IRS will also send stimulus check recipients a confirmation letter 15 days after the payment was sent, regardless of how it was sent. If you get that letter but haven’t received your payment yet, something may be amiss.
How can I get my money faster?
If you didn’t provide your direct deposit information with your taxes but don’t want to wait several weeks or months for your stimulus payment, don’t panic. A free online tool from the IRS called Get My Payment allows people to provide their direct deposit information so they don’t have to wait for their check to arrive in the mail.
David Hasen, a professor at the University of Florida Law School who specializes in federal income tax law, tells TIME that the IRS has not yet indicated how long people have to submit their direct deposit information into Get My Payment before they’re sent a paper check instead.
Get My Payment also lets you track the status of your payment and see what type of payment you’ll receive. It’s designed to work on a desktop, phone or tablet, and you don’t need to download it from an app store. To track your payment, you’ll need to provide your name, mailing address and Social Security number.
Be careful when entering your information — you can’t change your bank account info after a payment has been scheduled to be delivered, the Treasury Department said in a press release. It’s also wise to be on the lookout for any suspicious emails, calls or texts seeking your personal info, as it’s likely that scammers will try to take advantage of the stimulus check system to steal people’s personal information.
I haven’t filed my 2019 tax return yet. What should I do?
As long as you filed a 2018 tax return, you should be fine. The IRS says that it will use your 2018 tax filings to make its calculations on your Economic Impact Payment. If you filed a 2019 tax return, the IRS will use that information instead.
If you haven’t filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return — and were not exempt from doing so — file those returns electronically as soon as you can. For most Americans, filing a return from those tax years is the only way you can receive a stimulus payment.
The IRS has extended the deadline for filing 2019 taxes to July 15, 2020.
I filed my 2019 tax return, but didn’t use direct deposit. What should I do?
That’s fine — the IRS will send you a paper check in the mail. But if you’d rather not wait, you can input your bank’s direct deposit information into the IRS’s Get My Payment tool to receive your stimulus check via direct deposit. Do it sooner rather than later though, as IRS reportedly plans on sending out paper checks in the next few weeks.
What if I need to change my mailing address or bank account information?
If you filed a 2019 tax return, the IRS will use the mailing address or the direct deposit information on file from that return. You won’t be able to change it.
If you’ve only filed a 2018 tax return and need to change your account information or mailing address, the IRS recommends filing your 2019 taxes electronically as soon as possible. That’s the only way to let the IRS know your new information.
I don’t typically file a tax return. What can I do?
If you don’t usually file a tax return because you’re on Social Security, Railroad Retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance, you don’t have to do anything. The IRS will use the information it has on file to calculate your payment. On Wednesday, the IRS announced that recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will also receive automatic payments and don’t need to take any further steps. The IRS said the payments will go out no later than early May.
If you made less than $12,200 in 2019, or $24,400 for married couples, and thus didn’t have to file a federal income tax return, you can still receive a stimulus payment. Visit this IRS page: “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” and input your information. You’ll have to provide your name, mailing address, email address, date of birth and valid Social Security number. You’ll also have to provide the name and Social Security number for each of your dependents. The IRS has a detailed guide on what to expect when you file.
And if you have them, prepare to provide your Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN), a state issued ID and your bank account information.
People on Social Security, Railroad Retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance can also use the portal to request $500 per qualifying child.
I don’t have a bank account. What can I do?
If you’re one of the 14.1 million Americans who don’t have a bank account, you’ll still be able to receive a stimulus payment. The IRS will mail your check to the address it has on file for you. However, it may take a while to arrive.
“Paper checks are expected to take longer than direct deposit and likely won’t be sent out all at once, but instead dispersed over a period of several weeks,” says York. “People who do not have direct deposit information on file with the IRS should expect a delay in receiving their payment.”
If you log in to the IRS’s online Get My Payment tool with your Social Security number, date of birth and mailing address, you’ll be able to track your payment. However, the IRS says it may not be possible for you to use Get May Payment if you usually don’t file a tax return.
Individuals without bank accounts could use the paper checks to open up a checking or a savings account. However, as Hasen explains, many people who don’t have bank accounts face multiple barriers to opening one, such as lacking an ID or access to a physical bank location, especially as many are limiting operations during the coronavirus outbreak. In those cases, people can cash their checks at cash checking businesses — though they may be subject to a fee — or use offerings like Square’s Cash App, which allows for direct deposits without a traditional bank account.