Who is eligible for a stimulus check?

December 21, 2020 : H&R Block

Editor’s Note: Looking for information about second stimulus payments? Check out our Coronavirus tax resource center for the latest information.

The article below was originally published on May 19, 2020. It covers information about the March 2020 CARES Act stimulus. This page will be updated once details from the new bill are available.

How a life change affects your stimulus check/payment eligibility

As of early May, the IRS had sent millions of people their stimulus payments. But the more Americans get their checks, the more questions arise. You may know, your stimulus check eligibility and amount are based off your last tax return, whether that’s 2018 or 2019 — but what if that information is out of date?

Stimulus check eligibility for family with a new child

For example, what if 2019 was a great year financially, and you got married or had a baby? What if it’s the opposite in 2020 and you’re dealing with the aftermath of a divorce or the recent death of a loved one? What if you received your stimulus check, but it was for the wrong amount?

Over the last few weeks, the IRS has balanced the need to get stimulus payments out quickly while also trying to account for life changes over the past two years. As a result, some taxpayers are have found discrepancies in the amount they should have received versus reality.

There is good news — the IRS is working with the Treasury Department to make sure those who are entitled to payments will get the right amount — even if that means getting a credit on your 2020 tax return.

Below, we’ll clear things up about who is eligible for a stimulus check/payment and how life changes affect your eligibility.

Who receives a stimulus check/payment?

If you fall within the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) thresholds shown below, have a Social Security number or Adoption Tax Identification Number, you are eligible for a stimulus check/payment. Those who do not qualify include non-resident aliens, dependents, and estates/trusts.

The amount you qualify for depends on your AGI and the number of qualified children you can claim. Qualified children under 17 can increase the amount you’re eligible to get by $500 per child. Unfortunately, you cannot claim adult dependents to get an additional $500.

You can estimate your own payment amount with H&R Block’s Stimulus Check Calculator.

Stimulus check eligibility & Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) ranges
Filing Status Low Threshold

If your AGI is below this amount, you’ll qualify for the full $1,200 (per person) stimulus payment.

High Threshold

If your AGI is above this amount, you won’t qualify for any of the $1,200 (per person) stimulus payment.

Single Less than $75,000 $99,000
Married Filing Jointly Less than $150,000 $198,000
Head of Household Less than $112,000 $136,500

Stimulus checks: Children and dependents

Q. I had a baby in 2020. Am I eligible for a $500 child stimulus payment?
A. If you had a baby in 2020, you are eligible for the $500 payment. However, you won’t be able to receive the money right away. When you file your 2020 taxes, you can claim the child for an additional credit.

Q. I have joint custody of my daughter with my ex-spouse, and I claimed her on my 2019 taxes. What do we need to know for next year when my husband claims her?
A. You should receive the $500 since you claimed your daughter in 2019. Your husband won’t need to report the payment on his 2020 taxes.

Q. My son is 19 and a full-time college student, but we didn’t claim him as a dependent on our 2019 taxes. Will we receive a stimulus payment for him?
A. In this case, you will not receive the $500 payment, because he’s older than 16 (qualifying children must be age 16 or younger). Additionally, he would not be eligible for his own payment because you would have been able to claim him as a full-time student.

Stimulus checks: Marriages and divorce

Q. We got married in 2019; how does that affect the amount we will get?
A. That will depend on what the information the IRS used to calculate your payment.

  • If you filed jointly for 2019 before your stimulus payment was processed, the IRS will use your combined Adjusted Gross Income to determine your payment amount.
  • If you have yet to file for 2019, the IRS will use your separate 2018 returns instead.

Here’s where your filing status could make a difference: Filing as jointly married versus single won’t change your amount if your combined incomes are below the low threshold shown above. However, as single filers, it’s possible that one spouse with a higher income could affect eligibility.

For example, let’s say you and your spouse had AGI amounts of $35,000 and $105,000 respectively. As single filers, you’d receive the full stimulus payment because your AGI of $35,000 is below the threshold, but your spouse’s AGI of $105,000 would be over the limit and wouldn’t qualify for a payment.

Q. How does a recent divorce affect my stimulus check?
A. If you were married and filed jointly on your tax return and have since become separated or divorced, you both should quickly file your 2019 tax return to update your information. If you’ve already received a check, you’ll unfortunately have to negotiate dividing the payment between the two of you.

Stimulus checks: Recently deceased

Q. I received a stimulus check for a deceased relative. What do I do?
A. The IRS is asking for stimulus checks/payments sent to deceased persons be returned. If the payment was made to joint filers, then you’d only need to return the decedent’s portion. The IRS outlines instructions for how to return the payment on their website.

Looking for more stimulus information?

Find out about stimulus checks/payments for Social Security and railroad retirement beneficiaries.

Visit the IRS economic income payment information center for additional situations not covered here.

Stay up-to-date with our coronavirus resources

We know there’s a lot of information to take in these days. To help keep you informed, we created a Coronavirus Tax Resource Center where you can find the latest news and details regarding tax extension dates, stimulus relief and more.

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