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Do I Have To File A Tax Return To Get A Stimulus Check?

The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, DC. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
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Stimulus checks will start hitting bank accounts as early as Wednesday. Americans with a valid social security number will receive up to $1,200 dollars, and $500 for each child under the age of 17. It's your personal slice of the two-trillion dollar CARES Act passed by lawmakers last month. The best part? You don't have to pay any taxes on it.

Not everyone's payment will be a slam dunk, though. Payments are based on your 2019 tax filings. If you haven't filed yet, it will be based on your 2018 filings. If you haven't filed that... well, we'll get to that.

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We asked Eva Rosenberg (aka the Tax Mama) about who can expect their Coronabucks soon, and who might run into some hangups.

Who will get their checks without a problem?

  • Anybody who filed a 2019 tax return and had their bank account number on that return for the purpose of a direct deposit refund or a direct payment. The IRS has that number and your check will come in.
  • People who get social security checks, VA checks. The IRS has their number.
  • People who haven't filed yet for 2019. The IRS will look at the information on their 2018 tax return and they'll be getting their money too.

Who will have trouble getting that money?

  • For those who have not filed a return in a few years, it's a lot harder to get that check. If these can at least file a 2019 return, they will get it sometime this year. The stimulus is really an advance payment from their 2020 tax returns, so if they don't get it now, they will get it later.
  • People can also apply for the stimulus but, again, they will not recieve until possibly the fall.

Tax Mama's pro tip: If you file for 2020 and you make more money than you did this year, and you recieved a stimulus check, you don't have to give anything back.

Good to know: Last week, the IRS said they will process no paper returns until further notice. That means if you have to amend your taxes for 2018 or 2019 in order to get your full payment, you might just have to sit tight for now. You can learn more about the stimulus payment here.