What to know about the Second Stimulus Checks

By Christine Tran, 2020 Get It Back Campaign Intern

This page will be regularly updated as new information becomes available.

Last updated 11/12/2021

Congress approved a third round of stimulus checks for continued COVID relief. Learn more about the first stimulus check and third stimulus check.

In 2022, you can visit GetYourRefund.org to claim any stimulus checks you haven’t gotten. You will need to file a 2020 tax return to get the first and second stimulus checks and a 2021 tax return to get the third stimulus check.

Congress approved legislation for continued COVID relief that includes a second round of stimulus checks.

The payment is worth up to $600 for each adult and each qualifying child dependent in the household. For example, a family of four would receive up to $2,400.

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Eligibility

1. Who is eligible for the second stimulus check?

Eligibility is primarily based on four requirements:

1. Income: The income requirements to receive the full payment are the same as the first stimulus check.There is no minimum income needed to qualify for the payment. Households with adjusted gross income (AGI) up to $75,000 for individuals (up to $150,000 if married filing jointly and up to $112,500 if head of household) will receive the full payment. This stimulus payment starts to phaseout for people with higher earnings. The second stimulus check maximum income limit is lower than the first stimulus check. Single filers who earned more than $87,000 ($174,000 if married filing jointly and $124,500 if head of household) in 2019 are ineligible for the second stimulus check.

View the chart below to compare income requirements for the first and second stimulus checks.

Income to Receive Full Stimulus Payment (first and second stimulus check) First Stimulus Check Maximum Income Limit Second Stimulus Check Maximum Income Limit
Single Filer $0 – $75,000  $99,000 $87,000
Married Filing Jointly $0 – $112,500 $198,000 $174,000
Head of Household $0 – $150,000 $136,500 $124,500

2. Social Security Number: This requirement differs from the original eligibility for the first stimulus check. Originally under the first stimulus check, if you were married filing jointly, both spouses needed valid Social Security numbers (SSNs). If one spouse had an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), then both spouses were ineligible for the stimulus check. For married military couples, the spouse with an SSN could still get the stimulus check for themselves but not the other spouse with an ITIN.

For the second stimulus check, couples that are married filing jointly can qualify for the second stimulus check, even if one spouse has an ITIN. The spouse with a Social Security number and any children with Social Security numbers or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) can get the payment. If one spouse is an active member of the military, then both spouses are eligible for a stimulus check even if only one spouse has an SSN and the other spouse has an ITIN.

 The expanded SSN rules for the second stimulus check are retroactive and now apply to the first stimulus check. If you were denied your first stimulus payment because both you and your spouse did not have SSNs, you can claim your first stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on your 2020 tax return or use GetCTC.org if you don’t have a filing requirement. See the chart and examples below for further explanation of how this works.

First Stimulus Second Stimulus
Mixed Status Family (Married Filing Jointly)

Former rule: If one spouse does not have an SSN, both spouses cannot receive the stimulus.

Current rule: same as second stimulus.

If one spouse doesn’t have an SSN, the spouse with an SSN and qualifying children with an SSN or ATIN can get the stimulus.

Children (under 17) can only get the stimulus if at least one parent has an SSN.

Military Family (Married Filing Jointly)

Former rule: If one spouse does not have an SSN, only the spouse with an SSN can receive a stimulus.

Current rule: same as second stimulus.

If one spouse doesn’t have an SSN, both spouses can receive the stimulus (including the spouse without an SSN). Qualifying children (under 17) with an SSN or ATIN can also get the stimulus.

Examples

Former first stimulus check rules:

John and Mary are married and filed their taxes jointly. Mary has an SSN and John does not. John and Mary are ineligible for the first stimulus check and miss out on $2,400.

Second stimulus check rules:

John and Mary are married and filed their taxes jointly. Mary has an SSN and John does not. Mary is eligible for a second stimulus check of $600 even though John is ineligible. Since the SSN rule change is retroactive, Mary can also get the first stimulus check of $1,200 as the Recovery Rebate Credit when she and John file their 2020 tax return.

Former first and second stimulus check rules for military filers:

If Mary is an active member of the military, under the former first stimulus rules, Mary could claim the $1,200 payment for herself, even though John did not have an SSN. Under the second stimulus rules, because Mary is an active member of the military and has an SSN, John and Mary can each receive a second stimulus payment of $600, totaling $1,200 for the couple.

3. Dependency: The dependency requirement is the same as the first stimulus check. You cannot be claimed as someone else’s dependent on a tax return to get the second stimulus check. There is no age requirement for the stimulus check. Children must be under 17 to get the additional payment for them.

4. Citizenship or Residence: The citizenship or residency requirements are the same as the first stimulus check. You must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or qualifying resident alien.

The IRS has stated that people who died in 2020 or in 2021 are eligible to receive both the first and second stimulus payment. If they didn’t receive the stimulus payments or didn’t receive the full amounts that they are eligible for, spouses or other family members can file a 2020 federal tax return and claim it as part of their tax refund.

2. Can I get the second stimulus check if I am incarcerated?

If you are incarcerated, you are eligible to receive both your first and second stimulus check if you meet the other eligibility requirements.

3. What if I owe child support payments, back taxes, money to creditors or debt collectors, or Federal or state debt?

Both the first and second stimulus check cannot be reduced to pay any federal or state debts. Unlike the first stimulus check, your second stimulus check cannot be reduced if you owe past-due child support payments and is protected from garnishment by creditors and debt collectors.

If you use direct deposit and owe your bank overdraft fees, the bank may deduct these from your payment.

***

If you are claiming the payments as part of your 2020 tax refund (known as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit), the payments are no longer protected from past-due child support payments, back taxes, creditor and debt collectors, and other federal or state debt that you owe (see IRS FAQs Q E2 and Q E3). In other words, if you receive your first and second stimulus checks as part of your tax refund instead of direct checks, it may be reduced.

4. What if I get government benefits? Will the second check count against eligibility? What about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or unemployment benefits?

Just like the first stimulus checks, the second stimulus checks do not count as income when determining your eligibility for means-tested programs like SNAP, TANF, or Medicaid. Stimulus checks are not counted as income for the EITC or unemployment benefits.

5. Are the second stimulus checks taxable? Will I owe the IRS money next year?

Just like the first stimulus checks, the second stimulus checks don’t count as income, so you don’t have to pay taxes on them. You will not be required to pay anything back.

6. What if both my spouse and I have ITINs, and our children have SSNs? Can our family get the second stimulus check for our children?

No. For both the first and second stimulus checks, at least one adult must have an SSN for the household to claim the stimulus checks. That adult with the SSN and any qualifying children with SSNs will get the stimulus checks.

Getting your Second Stimulus Check

7. How do I get my second stimulus check?

You don’t need to do anything if:

  • You have filed a tax return for tax year 2019.
  • You are a Social Security recipient, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), railroad retiree. Or, you are a Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiary.
  • You have successfully registered for the first stimulus check online using the IRS Non-Filers tool or submitted a simplified tax return that has been processed by the IRS.

The IRS should’ve automatically sent your payment. All second stimulus checks were issued by January 15, 2021. If you didn’t get a second stimulus check by then (mailed checks may take longer to deliver), you can claim your second stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on your 2020 tax return or use GetCTC.org (available until November 15, 2021) if you don’t have a filing requirement.

8. When will a second stimulus check be issued?

The government began sending direct deposit payments on December 28, 2020. Paper checks were sent out starting on December 30, 2020.

Payments are automatically sent to:

  • Eligible individuals who filed a 2019 tax return.
  • Social Security recipients, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), railroad retirees, and Supplemental Security (SSI) and Veteran Affairs (VA) beneficiaries.
  • Individuals who successfully registered for the first stimulus check online using the IRS Non-Filers tool or who submitted a simplified tax return that has been processed by the IRS

There is no action that you have to take to get your second stimulus check. People who provided their banking information with the IRS should’ve received their stimulus checks by direct deposit. Social Security and Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiaries who received the first payment via Direct Express should’ve received the second payment the same way.

The IRS sent paper checks or prepaid debit cards to people who did not provide their banking information. Mailed payments may be delivered in a different format than the first stimulus check.

All second stimulus checks were issued by January 15, 2021. If you didn’t get a second stimulus check by then (mailed checks may take longer to deliver), you can claim your second stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on your 2020 tax return or use GetCTC.org if you don’t have a filing requirement.

9. Where is my second stimulus check?

All second stimulus checks were issued by January 15, 2021. If you didn’t get a second stimulus check by then (mailed checks may take longer to deliver), you can claim your second stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on your 2020 tax return or use GetCTC.org (available until November 15, 2021) if you don’t have a filing requirement.

You can request a trace of your stimulus check. You should only request a payment trace if you received IRS Notice 1444-B showing that your second stimulus check was issued or if your IRS account shows your payment amount and you haven’t received your second stimulus check.

Learn more about requesting a payment trace here.

10. What if I am eligible for the stimulus checks but I didn’t file a tax return and didn’t use the IRS Non-Filers tool?

You can get the first and second stimulus check as part of your tax refund after you file a 2020 federal tax return or use GetCTC.org (available until November 15, 2021) if you don’t have a filing requirement.

You can file a tax return even if you don’t have a filing requirement to get other tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit.

11. Is there a deadline to get my second stimulus check?

All second stimulus checks were issued by January 15, 2021. If you didn’t get a second stimulus check by then (mailed checks may take longer to deliver), you can claim your second stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on your 2020 tax return or use GetCTC.org (available until November 15, 2021) if you don’t have a filing requirement.

If you’re required to file taxes:

The deadline to file your 2020 tax return was May 17, 2021. The tax filing extension deadline is October 15, 2021. Many tax filing software programs close after this date. If you can find an online tax filing program that is still accepting 2020 tax returns, you can file a tax return to get your stimulus checks even though the deadline has passed.

If you don’t owe taxes, there is no penalty for filing late. If you owe taxes, you may be subject to penalties and fines for not filing or not paying taxes. The government may reduce your tax refund to pay for any taxes you owe and other federal and state debts.

To learn more about your options if you think you owe taxes, read “Filing Past Due Tax Returns” and “What to Do if I Owe Taxes but Can’t Pay Them.”

If you’re not required to file taxes:

The deadline to use GetCTC.org is November 15, 2021. You can get the Recovery Rebate Credit using GetCTC.org, a simplified tax filing portal for non-filers. GetCTC is an IRS-approved service created by Code for America in partnership with the White House and U.S. Department of Treasury. You can use the portal even if you’re not signing up for the Child Tax Credit advance payments.

Troubleshooting

12. What if I got my first stimulus check based on my 2018 tax return and I didn’t file a 2019 tax return? Will I get the second stimulus check?

If you did not file a 2019 tax return, then the IRS didn’t send your second stimulus check automatically. Instead, if you are eligible to get a payment, you can claim the stimulus check on your 2020 tax return as the Recovery Rebate Credit or use GetCTC.org (available until November 15, 2021) if you don’t have a filing requirement.

13. What if my bank account information changed, how will I get my second stimulus check?

Unfortunately, if your second stimulus check is sent to an account that is closed or no longer active, the IRS will not reissue the payment to you by mail. Instead, if you are eligible to get a payment, you can claim the stimulus check on your 2020 tax return as the Recovery Rebate Credit or use GetCTC.org (available until November 15, 2021) if you don’t have a filing requirement.

14. What if my mailing address changed since I received my first stimulus check by mail? How will I get my second stimulus check?

All second stimulus checks were issued by January 15, 2021. If you didn’t get a second stimulus check by then (mailed checks may take longer to deliver), you can claim your second stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on your 2020 tax return or use GetCTC.org (available until November 15, 2021) if you don’t have a filing requirement.

15. I used the 2020 IRS Non-Filer tool/filed a 2019 tax return, but I still didn’t receive my second stimulus check. What should I do?

Most likely, the IRS wasn’t able to process your 2019 tax return or the information you submitted to the IRS Non-filer tool in time to issue your second stimulus check.

All second stimulus checks were issued by January 15, 2021. If you didn’t get a second stimulus check by then (mailed checks may take longer to deliver), you can claim your second stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on your 2020 tax return or use GetCTC.org (available until November 15, 2021) if you don’t have a filing requirement.

16. What if I still haven’t received my first stimulus check?

If you didn’t receive your first stimulus check in 2020, you can still claim the payment as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on your 2020 tax return or use GetCTC.org (available until November 15, 2021) if you don’t have a filing requirement.

Need Additional Help?

If you need help claiming your first and second payment as the Recovery Rebate tax credit on your 2020 tax return, you can:

All information on this site is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice. The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities is not liable for how you use this information. Please seek a tax professional for personal tax advice.


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