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How Can I Receive a COVID-19 Tax Stimulus Check

The Internal Revenue Service, a storied U.S. institution not traditionally known for its generosity, will be sending out tax stimulus checks thanks to the damages inflicted by COVID-19 on the U.S. economy and American families. Indeed, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, many millions of Americans are set to receive a tax stimulus check, which will fortunately not be taxed as income.

The question many American expats have is, “Will I be getting a check, also?”

The answer is, most definitely yes, but that’s only if you have been filing tax returns and if you meet certain income thresholds. 

If you earn less than $75,000 and file single, or earn less than $150,000 and file jointly with your spouse, you will be receiving $1,200 each, and $500 for each child under 17. Individuals who file as head of household and earn less than $112,500, will receive $1,200, and will also receive $500 per child under 17. If you earned more than $75,000 as a single person or more than $150,000 filing jointly, your payment will be reduced by $5 per every $100 of income that exceeds those limits. The key is to look at your Adjusted Gross Income (line 7 of your 2018 Form 1040, or line 8b of your 2019 Form 1040). 

Unfortunately, if you earn $99,000 or more as a single person, or $198,000 or more filing jointly with your spouse, you will not be receiving a tax stimulus check, even if you have children. The handy chart included here shows you graphically what you will receive.

It is important to note that if you are a senior citizen and your only source of income is Social Security, you too will receive the stimulus check. Additionally, veterans whose only source of income is disability payments, will also receive the stimulus check.

The IRS will calculate the amount to be sent to you by verifying your 2019 tax return, if you have already filed it. If you have not yet filed your 2019 return, the IRS will look at your 2018 return. Therefore, if you haven’t filed tax returns recently, now would be a good time as any to file your tax returns and get caught up. Why? Because if you do not have a recent tax return on file, you may not receive your stimulus check. 

In fact, the IRS has announced that the more than 1 million people who have not filed a 2016 tax return and are owed a refund, still face an April 15, 2020 deadline to file their return (and receive the refund). This deadline will not be extended, so this is yet another reason to file your tax returns and get up-to-date, as you are leaving potentially thousands of dollars on the table by not filing, in addition to, of course, being non-compliant with the law.

If you have been filing your tax returns, and have received a tax refund in the last two years by direct deposit, that is where the stimulus will likely be deposited. If not, the IRS can simply mail a check to your last known address, and the agency has 15 days to notify you of the method and the amount of payment. If you have moved recently, it would be a good idea to notify the IRS by filing Form 8822.

Finally, the payment is not limited to American citizens – even if you are working and living legally in the U.S. with a Social Security Number, you will qualify for receiving the stimulus check. This includes taxpayers who have green cards, as well as work visas, such as the E-3.