This information was last updated on Monday, May 11, 2020
Starting in April 2020, the government is sending most people checks for $1,200 (plus $500 for each of their children under 17). This money will either be automatically deposited in your bank account or will be sent to you as a paper check. If you have a bank account–and the IRS knows of your bank account–you may have already received your money. Many people have questions about these payments, including whether they are eligible to receive the money, when they might receive their money, and how their money might affect their food stamps, Medicaid, or other benefits.
Community Legal Services has prepared this document to answer your questions. It is divided up into five sections:
A. Who is Eligible for the Stimulus Check?
B. Who can Withhold my Stimulus Check?
C. I’m an Immigrant. What Should I Know?
D. I did not File Taxes Last Year (2019) or in 2018. What Should I Know?
E. What else Should IKnow?
We will be updating this document as we obtain new information.
If your questions aren’t answered in this document, check out additional information from Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) at this link.
You can also watch this video of a Facebook Live Q&A held on April 22, by PLA lawyer Omeed Firouzi at this link.
Special thank you to Philadelphia Legal Assistance and students with the University of Pennsylvania’s Toll Public Interest Law Center for assistance in preparing this document.
A. Who Is Eligible for the Stimulus Check?
1. What is the stimulus cash payment?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress is providing financial assistance to anyone who is a U.S. citizen, a legal permanent resident, or has a valid Social Security number that was issued in conjunction with work authorization. This assistance is in the form of cash payments. You may hear these payments referred to as “Economic Impact Payments”. Most individuals will receive a check for $1,200 as part of this program. Parents with dependent children under the age of 17 will receive an additional $500 per qualifying child. This check does not need to be paid back to the government and will not be taxed as income for 2020. These checks will be sent through direct deposit or by paper check in the mail.
2. Who is eligible to receive the cash payment?
You are eligible to receive the cash payment if you have a valid Social Security number, you cannot be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer, and:
- You are an individual with an adjusted gross income on your tax return of $75,000 or less.
- You are the head of household with an adjusted gross income on your tax return of $112,500 or less.
- You file jointly as a married couple with an adjusted gross income on your tax return of $150,000 or less.
If your Adjusted Gross Income on your tax return is above the income threshold, you may still receive a reduced payment check. You are eligible for a reduced payment if your Adjusted Gross Income on your tax return is between:
- $75,000 and $99,000 if you are an individual or married couple that has filed separately
- $112,500 and $136,500 if you are head of household
- $150,000 and $198,000 if you filed jointly as a married couple.
You can find your adjusted gross income on your most return tax return. It is on line 8b of your Form 1040 and 1040 SR.
If you are retired and eligible according to the income thresholds above, you will also receive a stimulus check. If you receive Social Security, Railroad Retirement, disability benefits, or veterans’ benefits you are also eligible. You remain eligible even if the entirety of your income comes from a benefit program.
If you are not required to file taxes because you do not earn enough income or for any other reason, you are still eligible for the payment. You should submit the “Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info Here” application on the IRS website to receive your payment. You do not need to fill out this application if you received Social Security, disability (SSDI), survivor benefits, or Railroad Retirement and Survivor Benefits in 2018 or 2019.
However, if you received SSI or Social Security benefits for the first time any time on or after January 1, 2020 and you did not need to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, you should use the “Non-Filers” portal.
Additionally, if you were a 2018 SSI recipient who did not need to file a 2019 return and does not currently get SSI OR if you were a 2019 SSI recipient who does not currently get SSI, you should use the “Non-Filers” portal.
3. Who is NOT eligible to receive cash payment?
- You can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return.
- For example, if you are a child, a student, or another dependent claimed on a parent’s return for 2018 or 2019, whichever return was filed last.
- You do not have a valid Social Security number.
- You are a nonresident immigrant.
- You filed Form 1040-NR or Form 1040NR-EZ; Form 1040-PR or Form 1040-SS in 2019.
If your income is too high, you may not be eligible for a payment. You likely will not qualify for a payment for yourself if your adjusted gross income on your tax return is higher than:
- $99,000 if you filed as single, or are married and filed separately.
- $136,500 if you filed as the head of household.
- $198,000 if you filed jointly as a married couple.
However, even if your income is above these levels, you may receive reduced payments for your children if you have children under 17.
4. Does someone who has died qualify for the payment?
No. A payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions in the Q&A about repayments. Return the entire payment unless the payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the decedent. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.
5. Does someone who is incarcerated qualify for the payment?
No. A payment made to someone who is incarcerated should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions about repayments. A person is incarcerated if they are described in one or more of clauses (i) through (v) of Section 202(x)(1)(A) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 402(x)(1)(A)(i) through (v)). For a payment made with respect to a joint return where only one spouse is incarcerated, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the incarcerated spouse. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.
6. How much can I or my family receive?
You will receive a payment check of $1,200 if you are an eligible individual or eligible head of household filer. You will receive $2,400 if you are an eligible married couple that has filed jointly. You will receive an additional $500 per each child under the age of 17 that you claim as a dependent. If someone else has claimed a child you plan to seek the $500 for on their 2018 or 2019 return, or you have not yet filed a 2019 return and the issue of which tax filer will claim this dependent has not been resolved by the IRS, a portion or all of your check may be delayed.
While SSI recipients will automatically receive their $1200 check, if you are a SSI recipient with children under 17 you claim as a dependent, you must file by Tuesday May 5th to receive $500 per dependent or you will be unable to claim this money until 2021.”
If your Adjusted Gross Income is above the phase-out levels, you may still receive a reduced payment check. For every $100 of adjusted gross income that is above the threshold, your payment will be reduced by $5. For example, if you are an individual and your adjusted gross income is $85,000, you will receive a check for $700. ($85,000 – $75,000 = $10,000 above the threshold for individuals. Therefore, the usual $1,200 check will be reduced by $500.)
You are eligible for this reduced payment if your adjusted gross income is between:
- $75,000 and $99,000 and you are an individual or married couple that has filed separately.
- $112,500 and $136,500 if you filed as head of household.
- $150,000 and $198,000 if you filed jointly as a married couple.
You may also be eligible for a reduced payment even if your income is above these levels if* you have children under age 17. For instance, if you’re a married couple with three children under 17 and your gross income is $200,000: your income is $2,000 above the $198,000 cut-off. $2,000 = 20 increments of $100. For each $100 increment, your payment is reduced by $5 so that is $5 x 20 increments = $100. The only payment at all you are eligible for here is the $500 per qualifying child so that would be: $500 x 3 children = $1,500 – $100 (to reflect that you’re above the highest threshold) = $1,400 payment for your three children.
However, payments will be reduced to $0 for these taxpayers (who have only one qualifying child) with incomes above these levels:
- $208,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return
- $146,500 for taxpayers filing as head of household
- $109,000 for all others
7. Do I need to do anything to receive the payment?
Maybe. You may need to take additional steps to receive payment. Most people that have filed their tax returns will not need to do anything; payments will be sent automatically to those that have filed their 2019 or 2018 returns. If you have not filed a tax return and are required to do so, you should file your 2019 return as soon as possible.
If you received Social Security retirement, survivors benefits, disability benefits, veterans’/VA or Railroad Retirement benefits in 2018 or 2019, you will automatically receive your stimulus payment and do not need to do anything else. If you are currently on SSI and began receiving SSI prior to January 1, 2020, you will automatically receive your stimulus payment and do not need to do anything else.
However if you fall into one of those categories and have a dependent child under the age of 17, you will need to use the “Non-Filer” application on the IRS website to claim your additional $500 payment for that child. The deadline to file for payment for SSI and VA recipients is Tuesday May 5th. The deadline to file for payment for SSDI and RRB recipients was Wednesday, April 22nd at noon.
If you are a current SSI or Social Security benefits recipient who has received these benefits newly as of January 1, 2020 or later, you should use the “Non-Filers” portal.
If you are not required to file either because your gross income was too low or for other reasons, you will need to fill out the “Non-Filer” application to receive your payment.
8. I’m still confused. Can you summarize what I need to do to get my check?
You do not need to do anything to receive your check if:
- You filed a federal income tax return for 2018 or 2019.
- You receive Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI), or survivor benefits.
- You receive Railroad Retirement benefits.
- You receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- You are a veteran, or a beneficiary of a veteran, who receives Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefit payments from the VA.
You will need to fill out the “Non-Filer” application form on the IRS website if:
- You did not file a tax return because your gross income was too low. (E.g.: if your gross income for 2019 was $12,200 or less [or $24,400 for married couples])
- You were not required to file a federal income tax return for 2019 for another reason.
- You receive Social Security retirement, survivors benefits, disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement, Supplemental Security income (SSI) benefits, or veterans’ benefits and you are seeking an additional $500 payment for claiming a child under the age of 17 as a dependent.The deadline to file for payment for SSI and VA recipients is Tuesday May 5th.The deadline to file for payment for SSDI and RRB recipients was Wednesday, April 22nd at noon.
If you were required to file in 2018 or 2019 and you have not filed either year yet and you need assistance filing, you should get your tax returns done ASAP virtually by going to Campaign for Working Families’ free online resources for tax filing or through PathwaysPA’s free online resources for tax filing.
Using the “non-filer” portal to receive your stimulus payment can seriously delay any tax refund due to you for 2019. If you believe you may be owed a refund, you should file your 2019 taxes ASAP. Even if your gross income is $12,200 or less (if single) or $24,400 (if married), you may still be eligible for a refund on your 2019 return! If you use the “non-filer” portal for 2019, it will create a $1 return for you and potentially force you to file a new paper return for 2019 that could delay your refund for months.
9. Who is considered part of my family or household?
Children under the age of 17 that are claimed as your dependent on your taxes make you eligible for an additional $500 payment per child. If you are not required to file taxes, make sure to submit the “Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info Here” application in order to secure the additional $500 payment for a child. The deadline to file for payment for SSI and VA recipients is Tuesday May 5th. The deadline to file for payment for SSDI and RRB recipients was Wednesday, April 22nd at noon.
Senior citizens (such as your parents) that are claimed as your dependent on your taxes are part of your household. However even if you are financially responsible for a senior citizen, their status as your dependent does not make you eligible for an additional $500 payment. The additional $500 payment is only for children dependents under the age of 17.
Others in your family or house who do not have Social Security numbers do not count for the stimulus payment. The only exception is if you’re a member of the military and file a married tax return, your spouse is not required to have a Social Security number in order to receive the stimulus payment.
10. I claim my child who is between 17 and 24 years old as a dependent. Will my child be counted for the cash payment?
No. Unfortunately, if your claimed child is between 17 and 24 years old you will not qualify for the additional $500 stimulus payment. Additionally, if your child is between the ages of 17 and 24 they will not be eligible to receive their own separate check if you’ve claimed them as a dependent or if they can be claimed as a dependent. This is true even if your child lives with you and you are financially responsible for them. *Even if you did not claim your child as a dependent but could have claimed them as a dependent because you provide more than half of their income, that child will not be eligible to receive the stimulus payment.
11. How will the cash payment be paid? Do I need a bank account?
You do not necessarily need a bank account, though you will likely get your payment faster if you have direct deposit set up with the government.
For most people, payments will be sent via the same method you received your IRS tax refund. If you’ve set up direct deposit with the Internal Revenue Service for your tax refund, the government will automatically deposit your payment into that account.
The government has released an online portal that allows you to update your information and check the status of your payment. Click on the Get My Payment box online to update your information with the IRS. You can provide your bank account information for direct deposit if you did not provide it on your last tax return and your payment has not yet been sent. If you filed a 2019 tax return and provided your bank account information, you will not be able to change it. If you last filed a 2018 tax return, you can change your account information and mailing address by filing your 2019 taxes; you cannot use the portal to change your information.
If you received your last tax refund through a refund anticipation loan (RAL) or refund anticipation check (RAC), the IRS will be able to send your payment to your regular bank account only if that information was provided by your tax preparer. When you purchase a RAL or a RAC, your refund is sent to a virtual bank account managed by a third party before it is transferred to you. A tax return involving a RAL or a RAC has an electronic code, which allows the IRS to know if your refund was sent to a virtual account and ensure that your stimulus payment is sent to you and not the virtual account. Often, a tax return with a RAL or RAC also includes the tax filers’ underlying bank account information. If that is the case with your return, the IRS will be able to deposit your stimulus payment into your regular bank account. If the return did not include your underlying bank account information, the IRS will send you a paper check. Despite this policy, taxpayers have reported receiving stimulus payments on prepaid cards issued through tax preparers. Use the IRS Get My Payment portal to confirm if this has happened to you, and contact your preparer if you have lost your prepaid card and need a replacement.
If your bank account is closed and the government attempts a direct deposit before you can update your information, the IRS will mail you check. If the IRS has already sent your check through mail (which you can find out on the IRS Get My Payment portal) you cannot receive your check via direct deposit.
If you do not have direct deposit, the government will send a paper check in the mail to the address on your most recent tax return. If you would like to set up a new direct deposit account with the government to get your payment faster, you can use the Get My Payment portal on the IRS website to do so. If you are expecting a check in the mail and have moved since you filed your tax return, you should update your mailing address with the IRS. You should also notify the post office that services your old address that you have moved. It can take four to six weeks for a change of address to be fully processed.
If you do not have a bank account, consider opening one. For a list of Philadelphia-area banks that offer free or low-cost checking accounts, visit the City of Philadelphia’s website. If you want to open a low-cost bank account online, visit the national Bank On website.
If you were not required to file a tax return, ensure the government has your payment information by filling out the “Non-Filer” application form. You will be able to enter your payment information there. You do not need to fill out this application if you receive Social Security retirement or disability, survivors benefits, or Railroad Retirement benefits, Supplemental Security Income benefits or veterans’ benefits.
You will receive a letter in the mail within 15 days after the payment is made. This letter will provide information on how the payment was made, and how to report a circumstance in which you did not receive your payment. Be sure to check for this letter to ensure you do not miss your payment. Be on the lookout for fraudulent letters and go to www.IRS.gov if you suspect you’ve received a fraudulent letter.
12. Will I still receive the stimulus check if I owe taxes to the government?
Yes. If you meet the income guidelines, you will still be issued a check even if you owe back taxes. The only exception is if you are arrears in child support payments and it has been certified by the Treasury Offset Program.
13. When will they start sending the cash payment?
The government will be sending payments in waves. The first wave of checks were deposited in direct deposit accounts on April 11, 2020. Direct deposits will continue in the days and weeks ahead.
It will take longer if the IRS must mail you a check. In early May, the IRS will begin mailing five million paper checks per week. The first checks will go to households with the lowest incomes. It may take up 20 weeks for all paper checks to be mailed.
14. Is there a way for me to get the cash payment faster?
The only way to receive your payment faster is to set up direct deposit with the IRS. If you are asked to pay a fee in order to get your check faster, it is likely a scam. If you already have direct deposit set up with the IRS because you received a tax refund in 2018 or 2019, you do not need to do anything else. If you have filed your tax return and do not have a direct deposit set up, you can use the IRS’ Get My Payment tool to link your bank account.
If you are not required to file taxes (either because your income was too low or for other reasons), the fastest way to get your payment is to visit the IRS website and enter your payment information on the “Non-Filer” application form. You can set up direct deposit through this simple form, which is the quickest way to receive your payment. If you are unable to set up direct deposit because you do not have a bank account, you can enter your address information on the form so that a check can be mailed to you.
Never pay a third party which claims they can get you your check faster. It is likely a scam.
15. Is the cash payment taxable?
No. Your stimulus check is non-taxable. It will not be included as part of your income in 2020
16. Will I need to repay the amount?
No. Your stimulus payment is not a loan and will not need to be repaid. You will not need to repay the stimulus payment in any way on your 2020 tax return.
If you received more in stimulus payment than you should have received based on your income, you will not have to pay any of it back on your 2020 return. If you receive less in stimulus payment than you should because your 2020 income goes down or your household situation otherwise changes, you will get the rest of the money as a refund on your 2020 return.
17. How will my income be determined? Is my income too high for the cash payment?
The government will look at your adjusted gross income on your 2019 tax return in determining your eligibility for a stimulus check. If you have not filed your 2019 tax return, they will look at your 2018 tax return. You can find your adjusted gross income on line 8b of your Form 1040. If you are supposed to file 2018 or 2019 taxes and have not yet done so, you should file a 2019 return as soon as possible. If you do not, you may lose your ability to earn a stimulus check.
If you are not usually required to file because your income is too low or for any other reason, be sure to enter your payment information via the IRS “Non-Filer” application.
- $99,000 if your filing status was single, or you are married and filed separately.
- $136,500 if you are the head of household.
- $198,000 if you filed jointly as a married couple.
18. Does the IRS need my current address and phone number?
Maybe. You may have to update your contact or bank account information with the IRS. The government will use the information provided on your most recent tax return. If your tax return is up-to-date with your current information, you do not need to do anything else. If you have moved since your last tax return, you will need to update your mailing address with the IRS on their website. You can do this by completing an IRS form online or by submitting the change in writing to them. You should also notify the post office that services your old address that you’ve moved. It can take four to six weeks for a change of address to be fully processed.
If you were not required to file a 2018 or 2019 tax return, the IRS will need certain information in order to send your check. Visit the IRS website and fill out the “Non-Filer” application form with your payment information, including where and how to send your check.
19. How will I know if I’m being scammed? How can I avoid being scammed?
The stimulus payments will probably encourage a new assortment of scammers. Do not be fooled by scammers looking to use the stimulus checks as an opportunity to steal from you. The IRS website is the only tool you will need in order to receive a check. That website is entirely free to use. If you encounter a service or a person asking for payment so that you can receive your check, it is fraudulent. It is not possible to receive your check faster by paying anyone, so never send a payment to a service that promises they can do that.
The IRS and other government agencies will never call, text, email, or contact you on social media asking for personal or bank account information. If someone contacts you and asks for your banking information, do not give it to them.
If you receive a call or email from your bank asking for account information, confirm they are your bank by calling or emailing them back at a number you know is correct. If you have any doubts regarding the legitimacy of someone that is contacting you, err on the side of caution and do not give out your information.
If you are responsible for a loved one’s basic needs, check in with them to ensure they are handling their finances appropriately. Help them avoid being taken advantage of by keeping an eye on their accounts and looking out for unusual activity. Inform them to be on the look out for scammers and to not give out their information.
B. Who Can Withhold My Stimulus Check?
1. A creditor or debt buyer has a judgment against me for credit card debt, medical debt, or some other non-government debt. Will that affect my payment? If yes, is there anything I can do to protect the stimulus payment in my bank account?
No, this will not affect your payment. However, right now, federal law does not prohibit private debt collectors from garnishing the money once it is in your bank account.
The PA Attorney General office has recently launched the “PA CARE Package,” which commits participating banks to suspend any new foreclosures, evictions, or motor vehicle repossessions for 60 days. Check here to find out if your bank is included in the “PA CARE Package” or call them directly to ask.
Regardless, there are steps you can take to protect your stimulus payment. You should monitor your accounts closely and move the money out as soon as it arrives by withdrawing it as cash, transferring it electronically, or using it to pay for groceries or other essentials with a debit card.
Another option that may reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of garnishment is to move existing funds and seek direct deposit of the stimulus payment into an account or prepaid card at a smaller bank or credit union. While prepaid cards are not exempt from garnishment, most are issued by smaller institutions. These smaller institutions are not usually on debt collectors’ radars and are less likely to be served an order by a debt collector. You should consider if this will make it more difficult to use your funds or cause you to pay prematurely for bills that should be delayed.
Finally, if you are receiving a paper check, you may avoid garnishment by cashing it and not depositing them into your bank account. Your bank may be willing to confirm there is no garnishment order and to cash the check immediately. Grocery stores or other merchants may accept the checks and provide cash back that can be loaded onto a prepaid card.
If you need legal help with a debt collector’s garnishment order, contact Community Legal Services at 215-981-3700. Follow the prompts to leave us a message. Someone will return your call to provide legal advice.
2. I owe the IRS money. Will that affect my payment?
3. I’m in default on my student loans. Will that affect my payment?
Maybe. Your payment will not be affected if you are in default on your federal student loans. However, if a private student loan lender has obtained a court judgment against you for a defaulted private student loan, it may be able to garnish the stimulus funds once they are deposited into your bank account. See question 18 for more information about garnishments.
4. I owe the government money for a Social Security, welfare, or unemployment compensation overpayment in the past. Will that affect my payment?
No, your payment will not be subject to federal offset or garnishment for these debts owed to federal and state governments.
5. I owe child support. Will that affect my payment?
Yes, most likely. Your check will probably be reduced by the amount you owe in arrears in child support if it is certified by the Treasury Offset Program. For example, if you are eligible for $1,200 but owe $500 in child support, you will only get $700. This seems like the only type of overdue payment that will impact the stimulus checks.
6. If my spouse owes child support in arrears but I don’t owe and I would like to keep my share of the EIP, what should I do?
You should file an injured spouse form to protect both your share of your IRS refund, if you are entitled to one, and your share of the EIP. However, we are hearing that even when taxpayers have filed injured spouse forms, they are still seeing all of the EIP for the couple being taken for one spouse’s child support debt. It may be that you will have to wait until you file a 2020 tax return in early 2021 to claim your rightful share of EIP. We are awaiting further guidance from the IRS as to whether there could be a faster solution to this issue.
7. I have recently filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy. Will that affect my payment?
No, if you are otherwise eligible, having filed for bankruptcy will not affect your payment. The CARES Act excludes the stimulus checks from being considered as income for purposes of the Chapter 7 means test and for determining the amount to pay unsecured creditors in Chapter 13. This permits debtors in bankruptcy cases to keep stimulus payments and not have them used to pay creditors or deny bankruptcy relief. This provision applies to any case filed before or after enactment of the CARES Act. As of April 7, 2020, the United States Trustees program issued a notice that it is “highly unlikely” that trustees will take the payment from people currently in bankruptcy.
However, the payment will still count as an asset of your estate and could be counted toward how much money you have available to pay creditors. In order to avoid these funds being counted as per of your assets and cash available to pay creditors, you would need to claim a wildcard exemption under 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(5). If you have already filed your bankruptcy and have not claimed this exemption for these funds, you may need to amend your Bankruptcy Schedules. You should speak with your bankruptcy attorney to clarify your options here.
If you have questions about how the stimulus payment will be treated if you file a bankruptcy in the future, you can contact Community Legal Services at 215-981-3700 for assistance with determining your eligibility for bankruptcy relief.
C. I’m an Immigrant. What Should I Know?
1. I’m an immigrant. Can I receive the payment?
2. I don’t have a Social Security Number. Will I receive the payment?
3. I don’t have a Social Security Number, but I have an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). Will I receive the payment?
No. Anyone who does not have a Social Security Number is ineligible for the payment. An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS does not count.
4. I don’t have a Social Security Number, but my children do. Will my children receive the payment?
No. If you do not have a Social Security number but your qualifying children do have SSNs, nobody in the tax return household will get the stimulus payment. A “qualifying child” is a child under 17 who is related to you by blood or marriage more closely than as a cousin (for example, your children/grandchildren, siblings, nieces/nephews) and who lived with you in the United States for more than half of the year.
(Exception: If your child’s other parent has a SSN and that parent can claim the child as a qualifying child, then that parent can get the $500 EIP for the child so long as the other parent doesn’t file the return as Married Filing Jointly with you.)
Also, if you have an SSN but your qualifying children do not have SSNs, and you claimed them on your 2018 or 2019 tax return, whichever was filed most recently, nobody in the tax return household will get the stimulus payment.
If you didn’t file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, you could still do so and if you do not claim your qualifying children who don’t have SSNs, then you should get the $1200 EIP for yourself (and for your spouse if your spouse has an SSN and you file jointly).
You should not be disqualified from the EIP for claiming dependents who do not have SSNs but who are not qualifying children (for example, parents and other dependents who are 17 or older).
5. I don’t have a green card. Can I receive the payment?
Yes, if you don’t have a green card you can receive the payment but only if you have a Social Security Number. This generally means that you have work authorization (e.g., H-1B or H-2A visa) and reside primarily in the United States.
6. I have a Social Security Number but my spouse does not. Will I receive the payment?
Yes, if you have a Social Security Number but your spouse does not, you can receive the payment but only if you file your tax return separately (i.e., not jointly). Keep in mind that filing separately could have other tax consequences that may outweigh the payment. The only exception is if you are a member of the military, in which case you can file a joint tax return and receive the payment. If you filed jointly in 2018 or 2019, but would like to change this status, you will need to file an Amended Return, which can take months for the IRS to process.
7. Will receiving a payment create a “public charge” risk for me or my family?
D. I Did Not File Taxes Last Year (in 2019) or in 2018. What Should I Do?
1. I receive money from the Social Security Administration. Will I need to file taxes in order to receive the cash payment?
No. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients who are not required to file a tax return do not need to file one now to receive the payment. The IRS will use the information in your 2019 or 2018 SSA-1099 benefit statement to generate the cash payment to you in the form you would normally receive your benefits (i.e., direct deposit or by paper check). If you have been receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) since before January 2020, you will get the payment in the form you normally receive SSI benefits.
If you are a Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiary who does not receive a 1099 tax form and does not file tax returns, you will also automatically receive the payment.
If you receive Social Security, SSI or veterans’ benefits and you would like to get an additional $500 per child dependent under 17, you should use the IRS “Non-Filer” application form to enter your information. The deadline to file for payment for SSI and VA recipients is Tuesday May 5th. The deadline to file for payment for SSDI and RRB recipients was Wednesday, April 22nd at noon.
2. Will I need to file taxes to receive the cash payment?
No. You can enter your information in the IRS “Non-Filer” application form receive your payment.
3. I did not plan or want to file taxes. Is there another way to receive the cash payment?
Yes. If you do not plan or want to file taxes and are not required to, you can enter your payment information in the IRS “Non-Filer” application form to receive your payment.
4. If I don’t need to file taxes, how do I tell the IRS where to send my check?
When you enter your payment information in the IRS “Non Filer” application form you will include your bank account information (if you have one). Otherwise, your payment will be mailed to the mailing address you provide.
5. Where can I go for help if I need help filing taxes? And will they serve me if I don’t speak or write English well?
In the Philadelphia area, the Volunteer Income Assistance Program (VITA) has a partnership with the Campaign for Working Families (CWF) and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. You can get your taxes done for free through CWF’s online tools or through PathwaysPA’s free online tax prep resource.
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) at Philadelphia Legal Assistance provides free advice and educational tax presentations, including to taxpayers who speak English as a second language. You can apply for tax assistance from the LITC by applying online or by calling the telephone intake line at 215-981-3800.
E. For People Who Are Receiving Public Benefits
1. I get Social Security. Will I get the cash payment?
Yes. If you receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability insurance benefits, you will automatically get the cash payment without needing to file anything specific to get the cash payment. You will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as you would normally receive your benefits.
For Social Security recipients who have qualifying dependent children under the age of 17, you can take an additional step to receive $500 per qualifying child by going to the IRS “Non-Filer” application form. The deadline to file for payment for SSI and VA recipients is Tuesday May 5th. The deadline to file for payment for SSDI and RRB recipients was Wednesday, April 22nd at noon.
2. I get SSI or VA benefits. Will I get the cash payment?
Yes. If you receive SSI benefits and have been receiving them prior to January 1, 2020 or you get veterans’/VA benefits, you will get the payment automatically. If you began receiving SSI benefits for the first time in 2020, you will need to file the IRS “Non-Filer: registration form. However, if you’re an SSI, VA or other public benefits recipient with children under 17, you can get the payment for you and your qualifying children but you will need to use the Non-Filer tool to enter your information. You will need to file this form with the IRS in order to get the cash payment; you will not receive it automatically. This also means it will be a little while before you get the cash payment.
3. Do I have to report the cash payment to the welfare office or Social Security Administration (SSA)?
Yes, you do have to report the cash payment to the welfare office. They will not count your cash payment as income and the payments are excluded as counting toward your resources for 12 months.
Yes, you do have to report the cash payment to the Social Security Administration. Please note that the SSA will consider the cash payment as part of your income for the month that you receive it. However, if you are an SSI recipient, the SSA will not count your cash payment as income and the payments are excluded as counting toward your resources for 12 months. This is also the case if you are getting benefits from the welfare office.
4. Does the cash payment count as income or a resource for any of the public benefits from the welfare office or Social Security Administration? (For example, Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and SSI.)
No. The cash payment does not count as income for the purposes of determining eligibility for means-tested public benefits programs such as Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, or SSI. The welfare office or Social Security Administration will count whatever is left of your cash payment after 12 months as a resource.
F. What Else Should I Know?
1. I paid someone money to help me get the stimulus check but I think I was scammed. What can I do now?
If you think you’ve been scammed, call Community Legal Services at 215-981-3700. Follow the prompts to leave us a message. Someone will return your call to provide legal advice. You can also file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office online.
2. If I receive a paper check (that is, my money was not automatically deposited into my bank account), what’s the best way to cash the check if I don’t have a bank account?
If you take your paper check to a Pennsylvania check cashing store, you should be charged the rate for “government checks” of 1.5%. In other words, the maximum amount you may be charged is $18.00 to cash your $1,200 check. If you are charged more than 1.5%, please call Community Legal Services at 215-981-3700.
Community Legal Services recommends that you cash your check at a bank. You can use your paper check to start a bank account. For a list of Philadelphia-area banks that offer free or low-cost checking accounts, visit the City of Philadelphia’s website.
3. I think I received the wrong amount of money, what should I do?
Within 15 days of depositing your money in your bank account or after sending you a paper check, the IRS plans to send you a letter to your last known address confirming that the payment was made.
If you receive the letter, but did not receive your money, you can visit IRS.gov or call Community Legal Services at 215-981-3700 to leave a message seeking legal help.
If you received money, but you think you were entitled to receive more money than you actually did receive, you can also call Community Legal Services to leave a message seeking legal help.
If you are experiencing difficulty in claiming the payment or have any kind of dispute with the IRS about the stimulus, despite taking the necessary steps to get the payment, please contact the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) at Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA).
PLA’s LITC is a resource for taxpayers who need assistance navigating the stimulus payments or any IRS disputes. Please contact PLA intake at 215-981-3800 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Thursday with questions or use PLA online intake for your tax and stimulus-payment related questions.
Taxpayers of all income levels can also contact the Philadelphia office of the Taxpayer Advocate Service at 267-466-2427 or fax them at 855-822-1226 if you are having difficulties with the IRS in accessing your stimulus payment.
4. My children were claimed on someone else’s taxes and someone else received the refund for those children. Will I be able to get the stimulus payment for my children that I really had the right to claim?
When you attempt to electronically file your tax return, your e-filed return will be rejected if you claimed dependents on your tax return that someone else has already claimed. The IRS will tell you to file your return by mail and claim the dependents you attempted to claim when you filed electronically. Once your paper return is processed (usually within six weeks), the IRS will send a letter to you and the person that also claimed your dependents. The letter will give both parties an opportunity to reconsider claiming those dependents and advise the person that really didn’t have the right to claim the dependents to file an Amended tax return. If neither party chooses to file an Amended tax return, the IRS will send out a second letter in about eight weeks. In this letter, the IRS will require that both parties submit certain documents to prove that they have the legal right (under the tax code) to claim the dependent(s). The Exam division of the IRS will ultimately make the decision as to who actually has the right to claim that dependent.
If you have not already filed your return because someone else claimed your dependents, then the $500 per qualifying child payment will be sent to the person who claimed that child as a dependent on their taxes this year or previous years. If the IRS determines later that you actually had the right to claim that dependent, you will receive the stimulus payment eventually. If you filed a paper return after learning that someone else had already e-filed a return claiming your dependent(s), your return may already be with the Exam function and in that case, the $500 qualifying child stimulus payment will likely be withheld and not sent to anyone until the IRS determines who is actually entitled to claim the dependent(s). Once the IRS makes that determination, the funds will be sent to the party that is deemed to have the legal right to claim the dependent.
It will be important that you watch your mail for notifications from the IRS asking for information about your tax return and or dependents and respond promptly to help move things faster. You should not expect this process to be quick because many of the IRS offices are closed because of the pandemic. Expect this issue to take a while to resolve.
5. How can I find out more information about the stimulus checks?
Here is a list of helpful websites from trusted sources to learn more about the stimulus checks:
General information from the IRS about the stimulus checks
Information from the IRS on changing your address or name
Information from the IRS for people who did not file a tax return and want to provide information about where to send their check
Answers to questions regarding the IRS portals on stimulus payments
Information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about COVID-19
Information from the Social Security Administration about COVID-19
Information from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office about COVID-19