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Federal Stimulus FAQ: Who Is Eligible, How Much Money Will They Get? U.S Based Taxpayers, Expats, Non-residents & More

Federal Stimulus FAQ: Who Is Eligible, How Much Money Will They Get? U.S Based Taxpayers, Expats, Non-residents & More
Ines Zemelman, EA
26 March 2020

Update: The IRS has reversed their stance and senior citizens, Social Security recipients, and railroad retirees who are not otherwise required to file a return will not have to. 

Update 2: IRS Reverses stance, introduces tool for non-filers (those who are below minimum filing requirements) to provide information where to send stimulus payments. Important - if you have a filing requirement - DO NOT USE THIS TOOL.

Update 3: IRS Get My Payment Tool Released. See flow-chart below to determine if you are eligible to use it.

Update 4: How to Navigate IRS Get Payment Page & Changes for Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

Update 5: Couples with NRA spouses have to choose - file jointly and lose stimulus eligibility or file separately and possibly pay higher tax

Update 6: IRS releases guidance on how to return erroneous stimulus checks

Update 7: Helpful tips on cashing IRS checks from abroad

Update 8: IRS will be sending prepaid debit cards to some taxpayers.

Update 9: IRS adds 3,500 to agents accept phone calls from taxpayers about the economic impact payments

Update 10: How to cash stimulus checks from abroad

Update 11: International mail outages due to COVID

Update 12: Payment issued, but not received

 

Part of the proposed package includes direct monetary payments from Uncle Sam to US Taxpayers. We explain in detail below who is eligible, what they can expect, when they can expect it, and if they will have to pay tax.

Who is eligible for stimulus checks?

US tax residents with social security numbers, residing anywhere in the world, will receive checks depending on their income, which we outline below. Those with ITIN will not be eligible.

  Filing mandatory 
  • To be eligible, you must have filed a return in 2018 or 2019.  If you have not yet filed, the IRS urges you to do so now.
  • Those who do not file because they are below minimum filing thresholds do not need to file to receive economic impact payment. IRS introduces new tool to enter payment info for non-filers.
    • Minimum filing thresholds include income from all sources, anywhere in the world
  • Delinquent taxpayers with filing requirements will not receive payments unless a return is filed. 
  • If filing a joint return, Both spouses on a joint return must have SSN 
    • Neither spouse is eligible for the economic impact payment on a joint return when either spouse has either an ITIN or an SSN that is not valid for employment, unless one spouse is a member of the US Armed Forces

How much will taxpayers receive?

The amount taxpayers will receive today will depend on their 2019 income (if already filed), or 2018 if not. The end amount taxpayers will receive will ultimately depend on their 2020 income.

The figure to look at is the amount of adjusted gross income (Line 8b) If you earned less than the first table (low threshold), you will receive the full amount. The amount is reduced by $5 for every $100 exceeding the lower threshold. Once you reach the upper threshold (right column), the amount is completely phased out. If you filed your 2019 return, the numbers will be based off of that. If you have not, the 2018 figure will be used. If you have not filed - get in touch with us ASAP to get started.

If you have no income, you will still be eligible for a check if you have no income or if you rely solely on non-taxable government benefit programs (such as Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI))

Lower threshold and below: $1,200 per adult & $500 per child under the age of 17

In between: Phase out reduction of $5 per $100 exceeding lower threshold.

Above upper threshold: $0

Stimulus Check Amounts
Filing Status Lower Threshold Upper Threshold
Individuals (includes MFS, QW) Less than $75,000 $99,000
Head of Household  Less than $112,500 $136,500
Married Filing Jointly (MFJ) Less than $150,000 $198,000

What if my 2020 income will be different?

As above, the government will use 2019 tax returns to determine payment amounts, and 2018 if 2019 is not yet available.

The checks will be an advanced credit from the government towards your 2020 return. While the IRS has not officially stated how they will treat the credits, we can infer from the IRS FAQ on $500 dependent payments that there will be no reconciliation and/or payback of the credit if 2020 AGI is higher than the thresholds listed above.

Who will not receive stimulus checks?

  • Anyone without a social security number
  • Non-Resident Aliens
  • Households do not receive money for adult dependents, such as elderly relatives or adult children with disabilities.

How do I sign up?

You don't. There's no sign up. The payments will be automatic for those who qualify.

You do not need to call the IRS. See the special website the IRS created for coronavirus updates.

Is there a phone number to call?

In general, no. There are millions of Americans trying to contact the IRS and we expect it will be very difficult. However, on May 18th the IRS announced that they will add 3,500 telephone representatives to answer some of the most common questions about Economic Impact Payments.

The economic impact payment information line is 800-919-9835.

Will the stimulus money be taxed?

No. The stimulus money is not considered income.

How will I receive the money? Check or via electronic deposit?

If you have received a tax refund via direct deposit in the past, the IRS has your bank account information and once details are finalized, they are expected to direct deposit the payments, to those eligible, to their bank accounts. 

  • Direct deposit if the IRS has bank account information from prior refunds
    • New Tool introduced to provide information to update information if they do not (see flow-chart below)
  • Social Security recipients who are not required to file a return: IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099
  • The IRS will NOT be reviewing your FBAR or 8938 bank account information to find direct deposit information.
  • If not, check mailed to "last known address"
    • Some recipients will receive prepaid debit cards
    • It is not possible to request debit cards - the Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) will determine which taxpayers will receive a debit card. 
    • There are currently mail outages from the United States to over 20 countries due to COVID
  • If you are below filing thresholds, complete the online IRS form
    • DO NOT USE THIS FORM if you plan on filing a 2019 return. It will prevent you from being able to e-file and you may be required to file an amended return.

If not, the IRS will mail a check to your "last known address". Some recipients will receive prepaid debit card known as "The Economic Impact Payment Card". If you receive an Economic Impact Payment Card, it will arrive in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.”  The front of the card will say Visa & the back will have the name of the issuing bank, Metabank. 

The Visa name will appear on the front of the Card; the back of the Card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A. Information included with the Card will explain that the card is your Economic Impact Payment Card.  

If the IRS does not have your direct deposit information, see the flow-chart below to see if the Get Payment tool is right for you.

The fastest way to get updated information to the IRS would be to file your 2019 return.

Reminder: Your refund should only be deposited directly into accounts that are in your own name, your spouse’s name or both if it’s a joint account. Trying to deposit a tax refund into a bank or financial account with a different name can be seen as a red flag for fraudulent activity

Payment Issued but not received - request payment trace

First, if your payment was due to be direct deposit, confirm that it was not received by your bank. 

If the Get My Payment tool says it was issued, but you have not received it and more than the specified number of days (list below) have elaped, you may request a payment trace.

 

 Date thresholds for trace 
  1. 5 days since the scheduled deposit date
  2. 4 weeks since it was mailed by check to a standard address
  3. 6 weeks since it was mailed, and you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office
  4. 9 weeks since it was mailed, and you have a foreign address

Payment trace logistics

Which IRS tool is right for you?

How to navigate IRS Get My Payment tool

 

  IRS Tool Tips & Tricks 
  1. Many taxpayers with refunds apply those refunds to estimated taxes in future years. If you have done so, please put 0 for the amount of refund, not the actual overpayment amount that the IRS owes you.
  2. Do not put anything other than the street address in the address line. Do not add dashes, special characters. Taxpayers, especially outside of the U.S., often have many characters in their address. When using the IRS tool to locate yourself in the system, only use numbers & the street name.

When will I receive the money?

Press briefings have indicated 3 weeks if the IRS is able to do direct deposit. Paper checks will inevitably take longer, especially for those residing abroad.

After the payment is paid, the IRS will mail a letter to the taxpayer’s last known address within 15 days. The letter will provide information on how the payment was made and how to report any failure to receive the payment. If unsure if it is legitimate, please visit IRS.gov first.

The IRS just released a tool to check payment status (see flow chart above to see if it's for you). Importantly - if the IRS has your information on file, you cannot update the direct deposit info

  • Check payment status
  • Confirm payment type: direct deposit or check
  • Enter bank account information for direct deposit if direct deposit information is not on file and payment has not yet been mailed.

Additional FAQ:

Is it better to estimate my 2019 taxes now (since I won't receive my XXX tax return until June), or should I file the extension, and let the stimulus check be based on my 2018 return?

We recommend to file an extension now, and file your 2019 return as soon as you are ready. In the end, the final amount of money you receive will be clarified on your 2020 tax return (in 2021). But, if your 2018 return made you ineligible for a stimulus, and your 2019 return would make you eligible, you should file your 2019 return ASAP to get money now instead of spring 2021 (in the form of a refund on your 2020 return).

I've never had a refund (I've always paid tax) - will the stimulus check be sent to the address on my return?

Yes - the funds will be sent to the last known address. See above question When will I receive my money for information on the IRS tool to update direct deposit information.

Can someone still qualify if they are Married filing Separately?

 Yes, If you filed Married filing Separately, for the Stimulus check you will qualify as Single.

How can I get my address changed, or update my bank account or have my funds sent electronically to my bank account?


File your 2019 return as soon as possible.  

Please see the flow-chart above to determine if the IRS tool to update information is possible for you.

I have never filed my taxes since I moved from the US 3+ years ago and I need to receive the stimulus check, what do I do?


If you are not in the system, the IRS won't be able to determine if you are eligible.

To become current with your taxes, you can begin that process with the IRS amnesty program. You can read more about this program and sign up here: taxesforexpats.com/sp

Do I still qualify if I am a US expat living abroad, but don't have to file a tax return because I receive only social security, or SSI (Supplemental Security Income to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income)?


Yes, you qualify. The IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 to generate Economic Impact Payments to recipients of benefits reflected in the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 who are not required to file a tax return and did not file a return for 2018 or 2019. This includes senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are not otherwise required to file a tax return. 

Ines Zemelman, EA
founder of Taxes for Expats