Personal Finance

Missing a $1,200 or $600 stimulus check? There may still be a way to claim it

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Key Points
  • As new $1,400 stimulus checks go out, some may be wondering why they haven't received their $1,200 or $600 checks.
  • If you were left out of those earlier payments, or you received less than you were eligible for, there is still a way to claim the money.
  • A recovery rebate credit available with 2020 tax returns will let you recover any unpaid stimulus funds.

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As new $1,400 stimulus checks are sent to millions of Americans, some may still be wondering why they have not received money from the first two sets of direct payments.

The U.S. government has sent out three rounds of stimulus checks — for up to $1,200, $600 and $1,400 — over the past year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The first stimulus payments, for as much as $1,200 per person, were authorized by Congress last spring. Meanwhile, the $600 and $1,400 payments were signed off on more recently, in December and March, respectively.

The direct payments are aimed at individuals and families below certain income thresholds. Generally, those with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for singles, $112,500 for heads of households and $150,000 for married couples who file jointly are eligible for full payments.

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The checks are phased out for incomes above those levels. Those terms vary per stimulus check.

If you did not receive any money from the previous checks — or if you received less than you were due — you can still try to claim the money from the U.S. government.

This tax season, a recovery rebate credit has been added to returns in order for people to file for any unpaid stimulus check funds.

But you need to send in a 2020 federal tax return in order to get that money. That's true even if you are not required to file a return, according to the IRS.

If you received any money through the first or second stimulus checks, you also need to know exactly how much was paid.

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How to get a bigger stimulus check using your tax return

A recovery rebate credit worksheet can help determine whether you are eligible for more money, and for how much. Those instructions are available with Forms 1040 and 1040-SR.

If you file electronically, the tax software you use should help you calculate any unclaimed stimulus check funds.

You can file your federal tax return for free using the IRS Free File Program, so long as your income is $72,000 or less.

In order to get any stimulus check or tax refund money more quickly, the IRS recommends filing electronically and providing your bank account and routing numbers.

The latest on $1,400 stimulus checks

This tax season, the government is also issuing a third tranche of third stimulus checks for up to $1,400 per individual, plus $1,400 per eligible dependent.

Last week, the IRS and other agencies said about 127 million checks have been sent to date, for a total of approximately $325 billion.

Those $1,400 payments are generally based on 2019 or 2020 tax returns, whichever was most recently filed and processed by the IRS. Those who used the IRS non-filer tool last year should also automatically get their payments.

There are also advantages to filing a 2020 return in order to receive the $1,400 payment, according to the IRS.

If your income dropped from 2019 to 2020, you could be eligible for a larger payment. The IRS has said it may potentially send follow-on payments to those people after their 2020 tax returns are processed.

Filing a 2020 tax return also lets you update your direct deposit information.

This tax season, non-filers are also required to file a tax return in order to get their payment, provided they have not already submitted their information to the government.

Of note, people who receive federal benefits — such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans Affairs — will generally receive their stimulus checks automatically, though there have been delays in processing some of those payments.

Submitting a tax return will let the IRS evaluate other benefits for which you may be eligible, such as the enhanced child tax credit, earned income tax credit or other benefits.