Americans who aren’t required to file a federal income tax return may qualify for stimulus checks that were approved as part of the government’s COVID-19 relief package passed earlier this year.
The IRS is sending letters to about 9 million Americans who haven’t filed a return for 2018 or 2019, but may qualify for Economic Impact Payments. Non-filers are individuals whose income is less than $12,000, and married couples whose joint income is less than $24,400.
The relief package authorized one-time stimulus checks, which are technically known as relief checks, of up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples and $500 for each qualifying child.
Immigrants, retirees and students who aren’t being claimed on their parents’ tax returns often fall into the nonfiler category, according to Louis Barajas, a financial planner at MGO Wealth Advisors.
The IRS states that you are likely eligible for an Economic Impact Payment if you are a U.S. citizen or if you are a permanent resident but don’t have citizenship; have a work-eligible Social Security number, and can’t be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s federal income tax return.
You have until Oct. 15 to register in order to receive an Economic Impact Payment sent out by the end of the year. After that date, you can still claim the payment as a credit on your tax return the following year as long as you file a federal income tax return. Recipients can register for Economic Impact Payments here.
Francine Lipman, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, noted that if your income didn’t qualify you for a payment based on your 2019 income tax return, but you became unemployed in 2020, you can also claim your stimulus money as a tax credit when you file your 2020 tax return in 2021. (The payment is phased out for individuals who make more than $99,000.)
In most cases, claiming a refund must be filed within three years, which Lipman said means you have until 2024 to file a return to get your money back.
There is a stimulus payment helpline that will help nonfilers claim their refunds.
The IRS has released a state-by-state breakdown of the letters it’s sent out, with California, Texas and Florida having the highest number of recipients.
“Everybody’s gone through a lot of ups and downs in 2020. There are a lot of people who are hurting,” Barajas said. “The goal is to get that money and eventually use it to pay for your rent or pay the bill.”