Class of 2020, Here’s How You Can Claim Your $1,800 Stimulus Check

Two college graduates wearing red gowns hug each other after graduation.
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This post refers to the 2020 tax season. For the most up-to-date info, check out our recent tax articles.

The first and second stimulus checks left a lot of college-age students disappointed. If your parents claimed you as a dependent on their tax returns, you didn’t qualify for the $1,200 and $600 checks.

They also disappointed plenty of parents. The $500 and $600 child stimulus credits were only available for dependents 16 and younger.

But if you graduated from high school or college in 2020 and started supporting yourself, there’s a good chance you can still claim $1,800 of stimulus money. Here’s how.

Why Recent Grads May Qualify for $1,800 of Stimulus Money

Both rounds of stimulus checks were an advance on a tax credit for 2020 that were calculated using 2018 or 2019 returns. But if you qualify based on your 2020 tax situation, you could get $1,800 of stimulus money when you file your taxes as a Rebate Recovery Credit. That’s IRS speak for: “You’ll get it as a tax refund.”

So how do you know if you’re eligible? Basically, if you provided more than half of your own financial support in 2020, your parents can’t claim you as a dependent. If you no longer qualify as their dependent, you can most likely qualify for stimulus money by filing a tax return.

If you graduated last spring, found a job right away and immediately started paying all your own bills, you would probably qualify. The same applies even if you didn’t graduate but you started supporting yourself in 2020.

Where it gets murkier is if your parents still provided some support. For example, if you got a part-time job and moved back home with your parents in 2020, you may or may not qualify.

The best solution here is to use free tax software to file a tax return. The platform you choose will ask some basic questions to determine whether or not you count as someone else’s dependent. It will then figure out whether you’re eligible for stimulus money or any other tax credits and give you the money as a refund.

The deadline to file is April 15. As long as you file online, you’ll typically receive your refund within three weeks.

What About the Third Stimulus Check?

While a third stimulus check for $1,400 is looking likely, it hasn’t passed yet. If it happens, though, it will be a 2021 credit that will be processed using 2020 returns. By filing your tax return now, you’ll ensure that the IRS has the information it needs to get you your third stimulus check ASAP.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].