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How Your Marital Status Will Affect Your Stimulus Check

By Katie Brockman – Apr 23, 2020 at 8:43AM

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It's one of the biggest factors determining how much you'll receive

This IRS began sending out coronavirus stimulus checks this week, and approximately 90% of Americans can expect to receive one, according to data from the Tax Policy Center.

But how much you receive and when you'll receive it will depend on a few factors. And one of the most important affecting the size of your check is your marital status.

Hundred dollar bill with mask

Image source: Getty Images

How big will your check be?

The IRS uses information from your most recent tax return to determine whether you're eligible to receive a check, so your tax filing status will affect how much you receive. If you filed your 2019 tax return (or 2018 tax return if you haven't filed taxes yet this year) as an individual or head of household, you're eligible to receive up to $1,200. Married couples filing jointly are eligible to receive a combined $2,400 in stimulus money. And if you have dependent children under the age of 17 listed on your tax return, you can collect an additional $500 per child.

Whether you're married or unmarried, it shouldn't affect the maximum amount you're eligible to receive. Married couples filing jointly can receive $2,400, while two single people or a married couple filing separately can receive $1,200 each. However, marital status can play a role when it comes to whether you receive the full amount you're eligible to collect, because there are different income limits based on your marital status.

If you filed your taxes as an individual, you must have an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 on your latest tax return in order to receive the full $1,200 check. If you earn more than that, your check will be reduced by $5 for every $100 you earn over the limit. That means if you're earning more than $99,000 per year, you won't receive a check at all unless you have eligible children.

For those filing as head of household, you'll need to be earning less than $112,500 per year to collect the full $1,200 check. Your check amount will be reduced if you earn more than that, up to $136,500 per year. For married couples filing jointly, your combined income must be less than $150,000 per year to earn the $2,400, and if you and your spouse are earning more than $198,000 per year, you won't receive any stimulus money unless you have eligible children.

If you're married to a high earner and your combined income is higher than the income limits, your check may be reduced or withheld altogether -- even if your individual income falls within the limits. For example, say you're earning $50,000 per year and your spouse is earning $200,000 per year. If you file jointly, your $250,000 combined income would mean you're not eligible for a check at all. But file separately, and you'd still be eligible to receive $1,200 because your income falls within the income limit.

This doesn't necessarily mean you should file taxes separately just to get more stimulus money. Under the example above, you could end up paying a lot more in total income tax if you filed separately, and that would offset any additional stimulus payment you got. Just know that in this particular scenario, how you file could potentially affect how much you receive.

When will your check arrive?

The IRS has already started depositing stimulus checks, and those who have their direct deposit information on file from when they filed their taxes will be among the first to get their money.

If you receive your tax refunds via paper check in the mail, you'll need to wait a little longer. The IRS estimates it will begin mailing paper stimulus checks the week of May 4, and it will send approximately 5 million checks per week, with a focus on lower-income households first.

It may take months before all the checks are mailed, so if you're in a hurry to receive your stimulus money, you can provide your direct deposit information to speed up the process. The IRS recently revealed its new Get My Payment tool for Americans to track their stimulus check and see when it's estimated to arrive. If your bank account information isn't currently on file with the IRS, you can enter it here so you can get your money directly deposited instead of waiting for a check in the mail.

Millions of Americans are experiencing significant financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, and nearly everyone is eager to get their stimulus check. By understanding how much you're expected to receive and when you may receive it, you can start planning how you want to spend that money when it does finally arrive.

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