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COVID-19

Will the next round of relief checks be based on 2020 income?

Samantha Fields Feb 8, 2021
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Filing your taxes electronically and early could raise the odds of getting a relief check based on your 2020 income, according to Janet Holtzblatt of the Tax Policy Center. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
COVID-19

Will the next round of relief checks be based on 2020 income?

Samantha Fields Feb 8, 2021
Heard on:
Filing your taxes electronically and early could raise the odds of getting a relief check based on your 2020 income, according to Janet Holtzblatt of the Tax Policy Center. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Tax season officially opens at the end of the week. The IRS will start accepting and processing 2020 returns on Friday the 12th, which is later than usual. 

A lot of people whose income fell last year will finally get their first and second relief checks when they file their taxes. 

As for the next round of relief payments that Congress is debating right now — that additional $1,400?

Who gets them and when could be complicated by this year’s tax season.

Many people who lost their jobs in 2020 because of COVID-19 still haven’t received any relief payment. 

That’s because the first two checks, at least initially, were based on pre-pandemic income from 2018 or 2019. 

Those people can get their checks now, said Kris Cox, deputy director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Anybody who didn’t receive their initial stimulus payments should file a 2020 tax return in order to claim their payments from March and December last year,” Cox said.

Whether the next round of payments, the one Congress is debating, will be based on 2020 returns will depend on the legislation, said Janet Holtzblatt, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.

“But if it’s set up the same way as the first round of payments were last spring, then it will be based on the possibility of two different years,” Holtzblatt said.

So, either 2019 or 2020, depending on which year you’ve filed most recently. 

Congress will likely try to get the IRS to process the next round based on people’s 2020 returns, said Francine Lipman, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “But if you just look at the timing, it’s gonna be difficult, right? To process 180 million tax returns,” Lipman said.

And try to get millions of payments out based on those returns.

Holtzblatt said there’s no guarantee for people who are hoping to get a relief check based on their 2020 income, “but there is a way to increase your odds. The way that you increase your odds is by filing electronically.”

And, she said, by filing as early as you can. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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