Stimulus checks: Making sure low income households receive an economic impact payment

By now you have probably heard that the federal government, as part of their Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, plans to disburse economic impact payments (sometimes referred to as stimulus checks) to provide financial relief to individuals and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, requirements laid out by the federal government to receive these payments may prevent many Americans, in particular those who are not required to file a federal income tax return, from receiving these funds. Here is what you and your clients need to know to ensure payments are received:

Who will receive the stimulus check automatically without taking additional steps?

According to the IRS, most eligible U.S. taxpayers will automatically receive their Economic Impact Payments including:

  • Individuals who filed a federal income tax for 2018 or 2019
  • Individuals who receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits
  • Individuals who receive Railroad Retirement benefits

Who needs to take an additional step to receive their stimulus check?

Eligible U.S. citizens or permanent residents who:

  • Had gross income that did not exceed $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples) for 2019
  • Were not otherwise required to file a federal income tax return for 2019, and didn’t plan to

    You can provide the necessary information directly to the IRS easily and quickly for no fee here

Filing your taxes for free

While submitting your information through the IRS portal is enough to receive your payment, we encourage you to consider filing anyway as there could be state and federal credits for which you may qualify. Filing for these credits may increase your tax refund by thousands of extra dollars. 

Households may also qualify for state and federal credits worth thousands of dollars, like the Homestead Property Tax Credit (renters also qualify for this credit) and the Home Heating Credit. For example, the Homestead Property Tax Credit might be worth up to $1,800 and you can go back up to four years and file for this credit. 

According to the IRS, about 70% of households do not need to pay to get their taxes filed. Advances in online tax filing software means filing taxes online has never been easier. The IRS managed Free File alliance offers a range of options to quickly and easily file taxes electronically and free. Many of the products listed will guide taxpayers step-by-step and flag errors. They also provide support via phone, email, and chat in case questions or issues arise.

Keep checking our tax information page for the most stay up-to-date information.

How can people confirm their prior-year Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)?

When filing electronically, you must sign and validate your return. This is often done by reporting your prior year AGI. Please follow these IRS instructions to learn how to find your prior-year AGI or alternative methods to filing without your AGI.

Beware of scams

Please remember that the IRS will not call anyone to verify bank account and routing or social security numbers. If you or your clients receive this type of call, do not give them any information. To communicate with the IRS, only use the contact options listed here or on any official letter sent by the IRS. 

Post updates:

  • April 2: IRS indicated Social Security benefits recipients will not need to file a tax return in order to receive a stimulus check
  • April 10: IRS released their portal for non-filers to submit information in order to receive a stimulus check. Guidance on which benefits recipients do not need to file was updated.

Contributors: Sydney Lipton and Brian Rakovitis, CEDAM; Heather Badder, Michigan Community Action