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My Stimulus Check Wasn't as Much As It Should Have Been -- What Do I Do?

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® – May 4, 2020 at 6:17AM

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If you received your stimulus payment but are entitled to more money, here's what you need to know.

Stimulus check, officially known as Economic Impact Payments, continue to be distributed to qualifying Americans. Through April 17, the Treasury and IRS had distributed more than 88 million stimulus payments, and it wouldn't be surprising if the figure has exceeded 100 million by the time you're reading this.

No system of distributing hundreds of billions of dollars in just a few weeks is without its flaws, and the stimulus payments certainly aren't an exception. One common issue is people receiving less money than they're entitled to, which can occur for several different reasons. Here's why you might be entitled to a larger stimulus payment than you received, and what you need to know about the next steps.

Man with confused expression.

Image source: Getty Images.

Why might you be owed more than you received?

Consider these scenarios:

  • You are married with no children and file joint tax returns. On your 2018 tax return, your AGI was $175,000, which entitles you to a partial stimulus payment of $1,150 (total). In 2019, you were unemployed for six months, and you and your spouse had combined AGI of $125,000, which would qualify you for the full $2,400 stimulus payment. However, the IRS hadn't yet processed your 2019 tax return when your payment was sent, so you received the lower amount.
  • You are married and file joint tax returns but you haven't filed your 2019 return yet. Your AGI in 2018 was $100,000, which entitles you to receive the full stimulus payment of $2,400. However, your first child was born in 2019, which entitles you to an additional payment of $500. Because you haven't filed your 2019 taxes, the IRS had no way to know about the new addition to your family, so you didn't get the extra $500.
  • You are 64 years old and receive Social Security benefits, so the stimulus payment was automatically deposited to your bank account. However, by the time you discovered that you needed to let the IRS know that you have a 16-year-old dependent child, your payment had already been scheduled. So, you received a $1,200 stimulus payment instead of $1,700.

The point is that there are several reasons you may have received less than you are entitled to. And most of these reasons involve the IRS's not having your 2019 income information (a very common issue, especially since the tax deadline was extended until July 15) or the IRS's not knowing about your qualified dependents.

The bad news

If you didn't receive the full amount of the stimulus payment you are entitled to, the bad news is that there's nothing you can do about it right away. The system set up by the Treasury and IRS doesn't support multiple payments to the same taxpayer -- once you've received your payment (or once it's been scheduled), you can't use the Get My Payment tool to receive any additional amount you're entitled to.

The good news

The good news is that if you didn't get the full amount of your stimulus payment, you'll get it eventually. Specifically, the IRS wants taxpayers to know that if you are entitled to more money than you received, you'll be able to claim the additional funds when you file your 2020 tax return next year.

So, while you unfortunately can't do much about a stimulus underpayment in the immediate sense, it's important to realize that it isn't exactly lost money. 2020 tax season should start in late January 2021 (it started on Jan. 27 in 2020), so if you're entitled to additional stimulus money, it could be a good reason to file your taxes as soon as you're ready.

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