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Maximize Your Stimulus Check: 2 Ways Filing a 2019 Tax Return Now Can Help You

By Christy Bieber – Apr 20, 2020 at 9:02AM

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Don't end up with less stimulus money than you're entitled to!

Coronavirus stimulus checks will provide much-needed money to millions of Americans. Depending on your income, these payments could be worth up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per qualifying dependent child. 

The good news is, most people don't actually need to do anything to get their maximum stimulus money.

But there are some circumstances where taking action and filing your 2019 tax return could raise the amount you receive. In fact, you should hurry up and submit your returns if either of the following circumstances applies to you. 

Man filing 1040 tax form with phone and laptop

Image source: Getty Images.

1. You made a lot more in 2018 than in 2019

The amount of your stimulus money depends on your income. The maximum limit to get the full check amount is $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for head of household, and $150,000 for married joint filers. Once you hit those limits, the check amount you'll receive goes down by $5 per $100 above them. 

The IRS will use either your 2018 or your 2019 tax return to determine if you're eligible for a payment and to calculate the amount you'll get. If you made less than the income limits for the stimulus payment in both 2018 and 2019, it doesn't matter which year's return they use. 

If you didn't exceed the income limits in 2019, but you did in 2018, you should file your 2019 return ASAP so you don't see any reduction to the amount you receive. 

Conversely, if you made too much in 2019 to qualify for the full amount but your income was below the threshold in 2018, you should likely wait to file last year's return until you get your check. You have until July 15, 2020 to submit your 2019 return, so you have plenty of time if you need to delay the submission of your 1040 form. 

2. You have a new dependent you didn't have in 2018

For every child under the age of 17 whom you're supporting and whom you can claim as a dependent, you should receive an extra $500 in stimulus funds. But you can only get this extra money if the IRS is aware you have a qualifying dependent child. 

If you included all your dependent children on your 2018 tax returns, you don't need to file for 2019 just to get the extra money for them. But if your child was just born or adopted and wasn't declared as a dependent until 2019, you should file an updated return to let the IRS know. Likewise, if you couldn't claim your child as a dependent for some other reason in 2018 but you can now, you should take action. 

Maximizing your stimulus money is worth it

Your stimulus money can help you pay your bills, build an emergency fund, or invest during the coronavirus downturn to get your money into stocks at value prices.

You want to receive the maximum amount you're entitled to, so you should act quickly and file your 2019 return if that's necessary for you to max out your payment. 

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