• Michael Trout

Who could be eligible for a third stimulus check? Here's what we know

The $1,400 stimulus check is now closer to reality. Here's what we know so far about the third payment (and also the second, if you're still waiting).


A third stimulus check could be just days away from officially becoming approved. Once the $1.9 trillion relief bill clears the House again, it's expected to be signed into law by Joe Biden this week. If that happens, will you be eligible for the full $1,400 check? Or will you be left out this time due to the Senate's targeted, hard income cutoff amendment to the stimulus bill, which makes people who are considered high earners ineligible? Knowing your earnings for the year, measured in AGI, or adjusted gross income, is key, as they will play a big part in eligibility.


On the upside, tens of millions of people will qualify for thousands of dollars more than they did with the first two checks. This is because the third stimulus payment includes more groups of people, such as dependents who were left out of the first two payments. You could also get more money through new tax breaks for children and older adults. However, there's still one obstacle that could determine if you'll receive a third stimulus check, and that's which tax return the IRS has on file -- either 2019 or 2020 -- to determine your payment at processing time.


Here's how your age, marital status, citizenship and tax status could affect your payment amount. Also, here are some details for nonfilers, people with babies born in 2020 and families in child-support situations. While we wait to see the final outcome of qualifications, here's how to claim your missing stimulus money from the IRS (or file a payment trace).


Here's who we think would qualify for the third stimulus check

It sounds like a contradiction. A third stimulus check would open up more avenues for people to claim a payment -- so long as their yearly earnings in 2019 or 2020 fall within the brackets for receiving a third check. This would change the income limit for individuals and families who'd qualify for a full stimulus payment -- it isn't the same as it was for the first two rounds of checks approved in 2020. Check out the chart below for what we know now...


Will your dependents be counted toward the full $1,400 amount?

With the second stimulus check approved in December, each child dependent -- age 16 and younger -- added $600 each to the household payment. There was no cap on how many children you could claim for a payment. That was an increase in the amount per child from the $500 that was part of the first check approved in March as part of the CARES Act, even as the per-adult maximum decreased from $1,200 per adult to $600 in the December stimulus plan.


If you're a parent of a baby born in 2020, you could be entitled to $1,100 -- that is if you never received the first two payments for your new dependent last year. And now, the new bill would send $1,400 to dependents as part of a third round of payments.


Could more dependents of any age bring in a full $1,400 amount?

Not only would dependents get $1,400 instead of $500 or $600, but the latest stimulus bill opens up eligibility requirements to both child and adult dependents for the first time. Dependents over age 16 didn't qualify for the first and second checks, but a change here would make college students, older adult relatives and people of any age with certain disabilities entitled to receive money as part of the household total.


That change, if it becomes law, would include about 13.5 million adult dependents who weren't counted before, according to the People's Policy Project.


What 'mixed-status' households should know right now

In the $900 billion stimulus package from December, a US citizen and noncitizen spouse were both eligible for a payment as long as they each had Social Security numbers. This has been referred to as a "mixed-status" household when it comes to citizenship. Households with mixed US citizenship were left out of the first check.


The new stimulus bill includes all mixed-status households where just one member has a Social Security number for a third stimulus check. That potentially includes families with citizen children and noncitizen parents.


It's unclear if these previously excluded groups would receive the maximum amount. As we saw with the second stimulus check, dramatic changes can and do happen in the final moments of negotiation.


In the CARES Act from March, households with a person who wasn't a US citizen weren't eligible to receive a stimulus check, even if one spouse and a child were US citizens.


Do noncitizens meet the requirements for a new check?

The CARES Act made a Social Security number a requirement for that first stimulus payment. Though other proposals would've expanded the eligibility to those with an ITIN instead of a Social Security number because they're classified as a resident or nonresident alien, this group was excluded in the final bill text that authorized a second stimulus check in December as well.


Congress has proposed expanding the qualifications to include all mixed-status families -- where at least one member has a Social Security number -- for a third check. However, on Feb. 4, the Senate passed an amendment blocking stimulus payments from going to undocumented immigrants. (This has no impact on eligibility for mixed-status families.) On March 6, the Senate blocked an amendment to keep undocumented immigrants from receiving a stimulus check.


What past-due child support means for getting stimulus payments

If you owed child support, your first stimulus payment could have been taken for arrears (the amount you owed.) With the second check, those who owed child support didn't have their payment garnished to cover past-due payments. It's unlikely we'll see the third stimulus check walk this back.


However, one exception seems to be for people who are missing payments of any amount and need to claim the stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit in their taxes. The protection from garnishment laid out in the second check doesn't extend to catch-up payments made in the Recovery Rebate Credit, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent government agency that works with the IRS. That means that all or part of stimulus money received this way could potentially be seized to pay outstanding debts. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is urging the IRS to keep rebate credits intact.


Are inmates eligible for a third stimulus check?

After months of back and forth, the IRS was ordered by a federal judge to send the first stimulus checks to people who are incarcerated. They aren't excluded from the new law, which means eligibility for this group currently stands. It's unclear if there will be any more details in the third stimulus check bill.


If the IRS considers you an older adult, or you're retired, here's what to know about stimulus checks

Many older adults, including retirees over age 65, received a first stimulus check under the CARES Act and are eligible for a second one -- and likely a third as well. For older adults and retired people, factors like your tax filings, your AGI, your pension and if you're part of the SSI or SSDI program (more below) will affect if you receive a stimulus payment.


The third stimulus check could make older adult dependents eligible to receive more money on behalf of the household. Here's how to determine if you qualify for your own stimulus check or count as a dependent.


Extra work for nonfilers in 2021: File taxes this year to get your missing stimulus check money

With the second payment, the IRS used your 2019 tax returns to determine eligibility. Nonfilers, who weren't required to file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019, may still be eligible to receive the first stimulus check under the CARES Act. And this group will qualify again. Here are reasons you might not have been required to file:


  • You're over 24, you're not claimed as a dependent and your income is less than $12,200.

  • You're married filing jointly and together your income is less than $24,400.

  • You have no income.

  • You receive federal benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance. See below for more on SSDI.


If you still haven't received a first or second check even though you were eligible, you can claim it on your taxes in 2021 as a Recovery Rebate Credit.


Will SSI and SSDI recipients still be eligible for stimulus check money?

Those who are part of the SSI or SSDI programs qualified for a check under the CARES Act. Recipients wouldn't receive their payments via their Direct Express card, which the government typically uses to distribute federal benefits, but through a non-Direct Express bank account or as a paper check sent in the mail. SSDI recipients can file next year to request a payment for themselves and their dependents.


In the December bill, these recipients again qualified to receive payments, along with Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans Administration beneficiaries. It's likely these qualifications would remain the same with a potential third check.


How taxes and stimulus check qualifications are associated

For most people, taxes and stimulus checks are tightly related. For example, the most important factor in setting income limits is your AGI, which determines how much of the total stimulus payment you would be entitled to receive. The same will hold true with a third stimulus check.

We will keep you updated as this progresses. As of 03/10/2021 at 2:16pm the bill has been officially passed by congress.


-Mike

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