News and Commentary

Your Stimulus Check: Who Will Get It – And When
1040 form
Phillip Rubino / Getty Images

So, Congress has gone home after passing a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill meant to help all Americans get through the coronavirus crisis.

Before the vote, there was talk of $1,200 for adults ($2,400 for married couples) and $500 for children. (No one had time to read the bill before it passed, so nobody really knows what’s in the final version.)

But who will get that – and when?

The bad news – not everyone, and not all that soon. (Hang on, better news – about nine in ten households will receive some cash under the economic stimulus bill, and it won’t be months…maybe).

About 120 million U.S. taxpayers will qualify for direct payments from the federal government under the bill, according to an analysis by one think tank. It all depends what you were doing back in 2017 (remember then, when you could walk into a store and just buy toilet paper?).

Or 2019. Or 2018. It’s all a bit murky right now.

“American Action Forum said IRS statistics show that 120 million taxpayers in 2017 were in income brackets meeting the bill’s guidelines for the new cash payments,” The Washington Times reports.

Individuals with income up to $75,000 will qualify for a one-time direct payment of $1,200. The program phases out at a rate of $5 for every $100 of income above $75,000, with an individual income cap of $99,000.

Married couples with combined incomes up to $150,000 would receive $2,400, subject to the same phaseout that applies to individuals. The payments would be phased out entirely for couples making $198,000 or more.

Payments for children will be phased out under the same guidelines. AAF said eligibility will be based on 2019 income tax filings where possible. has a different scenario:

If you’ve filed your 2019 federal tax return, you can find that figure on line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax form. It’s line 7 on the 2018 1040 tax form.

The total amount of your stimulus check will be based on your adjusted gross income, or AGI, from your 2019 federal tax filing or – if you’ve not filed this year yet – your 2018 filing.

If you’ve filed your 2019 federal tax return, you can find that figure on line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax form. It’s line 7 on the 2018 1040 tax form.

Americans should start receiving the checks within three weeks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday. And that’s not bad compared to the 2009 crisis to battle the Great Recession. Back then, it took the Internal Revenue Service three months to get cash into people’s hands. And in 2001, the IRS needed more than six weeks to send out the first rebates authorized by President George W. Bush’s tax cut.

But some analysts say the federal government’s projection is overly optimistic.

“I don’t think any of the policymakers have given any thought to the practical implications of actually doing this. The IRS doesn’t have the resources to do it,” Howard Gleckman, a senior analyst at the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center, told Reuters.

While there was once talk of two checks, the final bill by Congress will get you just one.

“To calculate the amount of your check, Uncle Sam will start with that $1,200 figure,” Kiplinger reports. “If you’re married and file a joint tax return, then both you and your spouse will get $1,200 (for a total of $2,400). If you have children who qualify for the child tax credit (they must be 16 years old or younger), you get an additional $500 for each child. So, for example, a married couple with two children can get up to $3,400.”

Now the bad news. Stimulus payment amounts will be phased-out for people at certain income levels. Your check will be gradually reduced to zero if you’re single, married filing a separate tax return, or a qualifying widow(er) with an adjusted gross income (AGI) above $75,000. If you’re married and file a joint tax return, the amount of your stimulus check will drop if your AGI exceeds $150,000. If you claim the head-of-household filing status on your tax return, your payment will be reduced if your AGI tops $112,500.

Kiplinger’s offer a calculator, so check it to see what you’ll get.