Personal Finance

Your biggest questions answered as coronavirus stimulus payments reach bank accounts

Key Points
  • This week marked the beginning of an important step in the coronavirus economic recovery: the deployment of the stimulus payments to Americans.
  • Some individuals and families have already seen the money arrive, while others are still waiting.
  • Regardless of which group you fall into, you likely have questions about how the payments work. Here's what readers have told us they want to know.
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Millions of Americans received stimulus checks from the U.S. government this week to help stave off the negative economic effects of the coronavirus.

But many people are still asking: Where is my money?

If you haven't received your payment yet, take heart: Millions more Americans are slated to receive their money in the coming weeks.

More than 80 million payments went out this week, while estimates have pegged the total number of payments at 171 million.

The checks are slated to be $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for couples and $500 for dependent children under 17.

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But you have to be below certain income thresholds to qualify for those full amounts: up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income if you are single; $112,500 if you file as head of household; or $150,000 if you are married and file jointly.

The income is based on your 2018 or 2019 tax returns, depending on your most current information with the IRS.

The payments are reduced for income over those levels, and eventually phase out completely if your adjusted gross income is more than $99,000 for individuals, $136,500 for head of household and $198,000 for married filing jointly.

While Congress has updated its timeline on who will receive their money when, there is still some confusion about when and how the checks will clear.

When will I get paid?

The latest government guidance addresses when people will get their money based on their circumstances.

That includes if you filed your taxes including direct deposit information. It also stipulates when you will get your money if you are a Social Security beneficiary.

But one reader who wrote in was confused. She files taxes jointly with her husband, who receives Social Security benefits. What, then, is their timing?

More from Personal Finance:
New timeline shows when all stimulus payments should arrive
Whether your stimulus check is seized could come down to where you live
Your stimulus check could be delayed if you got a tax refund advance

"What puts you first in the queue is if you had filed your tax return and put a direct deposit number in it," said Janet Holtzblatt, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

If they had not filed taxes and were receiving Social Security benefits, they would likely receive their money with other Social Security beneficiaries, Holtzblatt said. A majority of those people are expected to get paid by direct deposit at the end of April.

If you do not have direct deposit information on file, you will have to wait for a paper check. To get your payment faster, the government is urging you to submit your bank account information via the Get My Payment web app. 

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Why is my payment lower?

Even after you receive your stimulus money, you may still have questions about the amount you received.

That happened to one reader, who wrote in to say he received a smaller stimulus check than expected.

He had turned in his 2019 tax return, though the IRS website told him it was still being processed. In the meantime, he received his stimulus money, which was presumably based on his 2018 return. Had the government used his 2019 income, he would have received a larger payment because his income was lower, he said.

Understandably, complications may arise as the IRS processes tax returns and stimulus payments at the same time.

"Eventually, they would be made whole," Holtzblatt said.

When you file your tax return for 2020 by next April, your rebate will be recalculated, Holtzblatt said. At that time, you should be refunded any additional money owed to you.

On the other hand, if you receive extra stimulus money now, you will not be on the hook to pay it back in April.

Will I owe taxes on this money?

No. You will not owe any  taxes on stimulus money you receive. If you receive a tax refund next year, it will not be reduced because of the money you get now.

Where can I go for help?

The IRS has a couple of web tools available if you want to update your information.

The Get My Payment tool, mentioned above, will let you track the status of your payment and also enter your direct deposit information. Accessing that site has been difficult for some people due to high volume, but the government advises to keep trying.

In addition, if you don't typically file tax returns, you can enter your information on a separate website.

It's important to make sure you're using one of these official sites, as scammers will be eager to take your information.

In addition, the IRS website offers a bevy of information on the stimulus payments.

What has your experience been with the coronavirus stimulus payments? CNBC would love to hear your story. Email your message to lorie.konish@nbcuni.com.

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