Here’s Our Most Up-to-Date Info on the $1,200 Coronavirus Stimulus Checks

A young boy sleeps on his father's chest.
Getty Images

One piece of good news in a time of coronavirus doom: You’re probably getting a $1,200 check if you’re single or a $2,400 check if you’re married to help you deal with the fallout of COVID-19.

On March 27, President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill into law aimed at providing relief from the financial impact of the pandemic. In addition to the $1,200 payments for most adults in the U.S., the bill massively expands unemployment benefits for those impacted by the virus. It also provides hundreds of billions in loans to struggling small businesses and larger companies.

Coronavirus Stimulus Checks FAQs: 27 Questions Answered

Here’s what we know so far about the coronavirus relief checks that will be going out soon. We’ll answer more questions in this coronavirus stimulus checks FAQ as information becomes available.

1. Will I get a check? How much will I get?

If you’re single with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or less, you’ll get $1,200. If you’re married and file a joint return, you’ll receive $2,400 if your combined income is $150,000 or less. 

For each child 16 or younger in your household, you’ll get another $500.

If you file as head of household (usually that means you’re a single parent with at least one child who lives in your home for more than half the year), you’ll get $1,200 if your income isn’t over $112,500.

If you’re single and make more than $75,000 or if you’re married and make over $150,000, your check will be phased out by 5 cents for every $1 you earn above these amounts. That means once your income reaches $99,000 if you’re a single filer or $198,000 if you’re married, you don’t get a check.

For people who file as head of household, the phase-out ends at $136,500.

2. What tax return will be used to determine my eligibility?

If you’ve already filed your taxes, your 2019 return will be used. Otherwise, your 2018 return will determine your eligibility. Reminder: This year’s tax filing deadline has been pushed back 90 days to July 15.

3. Who WON’T qualify for the stimulus checks?

If the income on your 2018 or 2019 return is higher than the thresholds listed above, you won’t get a stimulus check. You also won’t get one if you’re a nonresident alien, you don’t have a Social Security number or if someone else claims you as a dependent.

4. I haven’t lost my job or had my hours cut due to coronavirus. Will I still get a check?

Yes. Eligibility is based on your 2018 or 2019 income. Your current employment status isn’t a factor.

5. What if I have lost my job? Does that mean I get extra?

No, you won’t get a larger stimulus check. But you will benefit from the “unemployment on steroids” expansion of benefits for workers who lost their jobs or experienced major loss of income due to the pandemic.

The package gives workers who lost their jobs for reasons related to coronavirus up to $600 per week of additional unemployment benefits on top of their state benefits for 13 weeks. What’s especially unusual about this bill is that it extends unemployment benefits to gig workers, contractors and freelancers who usually don’t qualify.

6. Will I have to pay taxes on the check?

No. It’s a tax credit and isn’t treated as income. If you qualify for $1,200, you’ll receive the full $1,200; no taxes will be deducted.

Where it gets confusing is that the check is actually a credit for your 2020 taxes — but since no one knows how much we’ll earn or how much they’ll owe for 2020, the payments are based on your 2019 return if you’ve already filed it or your 2018 return if you haven’t.

So what happens if you’re single and earned $70,000 in 2019 and your income suddenly soars to $100,000 in 2020? You won’t have to repay it or even report it as taxable income. 

7. What if I made too much in 2019 to qualify, but my 2020 income has taken a hit?

If you didn’t qualify because you earned too much in 2018 or 2019, but your income dips below the thresholds in 2020, you won’t get a stimulus check, though you’ll probably benefit from the expanded unemployment benefits if you’ve lost your job due to the pandemic. 

While the bill wouldn’t allow you to receive a check based on your 2020 income right now, you’ll be able to receive the payment as a tax credit when you file your 2020 tax return in early 2021.

8. Where do I find my AGI?

To find your AGI on your 2018 return, look at Line 7 of your 1040. For your 2019 return, you can find it on Line 8b of your 1040 or 1040-SR.

9. What if I didn’t file a tax return in 2018 or 2019?

If you received Social Security benefits, the IRS can use information from your benefits statement to process your check.

But things could get tricky if you didn’t file a tax return and also didn’t receive Social Security benefits for 2018 and 2019.

The solution: File a tax return ASAP. While the IRS website says it doesn’t have any information about stimulus checks yet, it urges non-filers to take action right away.

“Pending legislation includes certain potential credits and rebates for those who have filed a return for 2018 and/or 2019,” it says. “Those without 2018 tax filings on record could potentially affect mailings of stimulus checks.” 

10. Do I still get a check if I’m retired?

Yes, as long as your income isn’t above the limits listed above and you meet the other criteria. If you didn’t make enough money during either year to file a tax return, the government can use your Social Security benefits form to process your payment.

11. Will I still get a check if I owe back taxes?

Yes. Delinquent taxes won’t affect stimulus checks. 

12. I already got my relief check in the mail. Is it legit?

Any check you’ve already received is fraudulent. Remember: This hasn’t even been signed into law yet.

A few things to remember for when checks are issued: You’ll never have to pay anything upfront to receive a check from the U.S. government, and you’ll never have to provide your Social Security number, credit card number or bank account number to receive your check. The FTC has more information here

13. How will I get my check?

If the IRS has your bank account information from your past tax returns, it will use that and pay you via direct deposit. If it doesn’t have your bank account info, you’ll get your benefit by mail via paper check.

14. When will I get my check?

If you’ve signed up for direct deposit through the IRS or receive Social Security benefits through direct deposit, you can expect to receive your coronavirus stimulus payment around April 14, or even a couple days earlier, depending on how quickly your bank processes the deposit.

The first check payments will likely be mailed to those with the lowest incomes the week of April 24. Each week, the IRS will mail payments to those with progressively higher incomes at a rate of 5 million per week. Eligible taxpayers who don’t get direct deposit could have to wait until early September to receive the payments.

15. Is this a one-time deal?

The Senate has only authorized one payment, so for the moment, yes. 

16. Will I get a $500 credit for my 17-year-old child who’s still in high school?

No. The $500 credits will only go to families with children 16 and younger. Our child coronavirus stimulus FAQ explains more about how those payments will work.

17. I claim my college kid as a dependent. Will they qualify for the $500 or the $1,200 payment?

No, and that’s one major point of criticism about these payments. A lot of people ages 17 to 23 are excluded because they can be claimed by their parents as dependents.

If your child is 17 or older for the tax year the IRS uses to calculate your payment (and we still don’t know what cutoff date the IRS will use to determine someone’s 17th birthday), you don’t get the $500 credit for them. That applies even if you list them as a dependent on your tax return. 

If you claim your child as a dependent, as many parents of college students do, they won’t get a $1,200 check on their own.

18. Doesn’t that seem unfair that I pay for most of my child’s expenses, but I won’t get a credit just because they’re 17 or older?

We hear you on this one. We heard from hundreds of you about the many 17- to 23-year-olds who will be left out. 

All we can say is: We didn’t write the law. We’re just telling you what’s in the law. If you’re angry about this (or any part of the law), the best thing you can do is let your representatives in the House and Senate know how you feel. 

19. My elderly mother lives with me, and I claim her as my dependent. Will she get a stimulus payment?

No. Many elderly Americans who are cared for by family members will also be left out of stimulus payments. In this case, your mother wouldn’t qualify for the $1,200 payment because she’s your dependent. You also won’t receive a $500 credit for her, because those credits will only go to families with dependent children 16 and younger.

20. I’m on Social Security and don’t usually file a tax return. Last week, I heard I wouldn’t need to file a tax return to receive my payment, but this week I heard I’d need to file one after all. Can you clarify?

As of this writing on April 2, people on Social Security who don’t otherwise file tax returns DO NOT need to file one to receive stimulus payments.

The law itself says that if a Social Security recipient hasn’t filed a 2018 or 2019 return, the IRS can use their benefit statement to determine their eligibility. Then, earlier this week, the IRS issued new guidance saying recipients would need to file a return. But after mounting criticism, the IRS reversed that rule, meaning Social Security recipients won’t need to do anything to get their payment.

We’ll say it again, just because there’s been so much confusion: If you’re on Social Security and you don’t normally need to file a tax return, you won’t need to file one to get your coronavirus stimulus payment. The IRS will use the information from your benefits statement and pay you automatically.

21. Is there a minimum amount of income you have to earn to receive a stimulus check?

No.

22. I had no income in 2018 or 2019. Can I still file a tax return so that I can get my payment?

Yes, as long as you have a Social Security number and no one claims you as a dependent on their return.

But filing a tax return may not be so simple if you haven’t done so for years or if you’ve never had to file.

Complicating matters is the fact that IRS-operated free tax assistance resources have largely shuttered operations due to COVID-19. All offices for the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program are closed, as are most offices of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

The IRS offers free filing resources on its website. TurboTax, H&R Block and TaxAct all have free filing options that we like.

23. I owe child support. Could that affect my stimulus check?

Yes, presuming that your state agency has reported the delinquency to the IRS. 

“The only administrative offset that will be enforced applies to those who have past due child support payments that the states have reported to the Treasury Department,” wrote Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a post for Medium.

24. My tax refund is usually garnished due to unpaid federal student loans. Will my stimulus check be garnished, too?

No. Unpaid child support is the only delinquency that could cause you not to receive a check for the full amount you qualify for.

25. I’m an American citizen who lives abroad. Will I still get a stimulus check?

Yes, provided that no one else claims you as a dependent and you’ve filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return.

26. The IRS doesn’t have my current bank account info. How can I get them my current direct deposit information?

The IRS says it plans to develop a web portal so that taxpayers can update their direct deposit information “in the coming weeks.” However, it’s not clear whether that means it will happen before the IRS starts making payments, which it still says it will start doing around April 17.

If you haven’t filed your 2019 return, consider filing now so that you can update your direct deposit information.

27. Is there anything I can do to get my coronavirus stimulus check faster?

If you’ve filed your 2018 or 2019 tax return (or you receive Social Security) and you’re signed up for direct deposit, probably not. If you’ve filed your tax returns and haven’t signed up for direct deposit, there’s no easy way to get your bank account information to the IRS at the moment. We’ll update this post once the IRS web portal (see question #26) for submitting your direct deposit information is live.

What Do You Want to Know About the Coronavirus Stimulus Checks?

There are a lot of things we still don’t know about the coronavirus stimulus checks. 

Even the IRS doesn’t have all the answers. As more information becomes available, the IRS says it will publish updates at IRS.gov/coronavirus.

In the meantime, we’ll try to answer as many of your questions as possible. If you have a question you’d like us to answer in our coronavirus stimulus checks FAQ, email [email protected].