Over the past two months we've witnessed unprecedented disruption to the stock market, U.S. economy, and the labor market because of the proliferation of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In the wake of mitigation measures designed to slow the transmission of COVID-19, a whopping 22 million people have claimed initial unemployment benefits in just a four-week span. It's this disruption that prompted Congress to pass and President Trump to sign the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law exactly one month ago today (March 27, 2020).
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act is the largest fiscal stimulus package in history. It set aside $500 billion for distressed industries, close to $350 billion in small business loans, and $260 billion to expand the unemployment program for four months.
How much stimulus money am I going to receive?
But most importantly, the CARES directs $300 billion for stimulus payments to working Americans and seniors. These payouts, officially known as Economic Impact Payments, have begun making their way to what'll likely be close to 140 million households across the country.
The big question on most folks' minds is simple: How much money am I going to get?
The answer to this question depends on your income, your most recent tax-filing status, and in some cases your ability to do a little math. Let me walk you through the eligibility determinations and show you how you can calculate what your stimulus check payout will be.
The biggest determinant in eligibility has to do with income, or more specifically adjusted gross income (AGI) -- AGI takes into account your gross income for a given year, then subtracts certain deductions – but also takes into account your filing status. It should be noted that Economic Impact Payment eligibility is based on your AGI in your most recent tax filing. If you haven't filed your federal tax return for the 2019 tax year yet, the IRS will use your AGI and filing status from 2018.
Determine your eligibility and filing status, then you can calculate your payout
The following group of people, based on their filing status, can expect the maximum individual payout of $1,200, or the maximum check for couples of $2,400:
- Single filers with AGI's under $75,000
- Head-of-household filers with AGI's of less than $112,500
- Married couples filing jointly with AGI's below $150,000
For these folks, no calculator is needed. If, based on your filing status, your income is below these thresholds, you're in line to receive the maximum payout of $1,200 or $2,400.
At the other end of the spectrum are the high-income earners who won't be receiving a stimulus check. The CARES Act completely phases out Economic Impact Payments for:
- Single filers with AGI's over $99,000
- Head-of-household filers with AGI's of more than $136,500
- Married couples filing jointly with AGI's above $198,000
Where a calculator becomes handy is for those individuals and couples whose AGI falls in between this upper bound where stimulus money ceases to be paid, and the lower bound where maximum payouts are made. For these folks, $5 in coronavirus relief stimulus is removed for every $100 in AGI above the lower bound. Once the upper bound is reached, the stimulus has been completely phased out.
Additionally, qualifying children aged 16 and under can net their eligible parent(s) $500 extra per child.
At the other end of the spectrum, dependents aged 17 and over are ineligible for an Economic Impact Payment, as are non-citizens with no Social Security number and no legal pathway to citizenship.
Real-world examples of stimulus payout calculations
Let's look at a couple of examples so you'll feel confident in calculating your own payout.
Example 1: A single taxpayer earned $80,000 in AGI in 2018 and $100,000 in AGI in 2019, but has yet to file their 2019 tax return. How much will this individual receive in stimulus money?
Answer: Since the 2019 tax return hasn't been filed yet, the IRS will be focusing their eligibility requirements on this individual's 2018 AGI. If this person had filed their 2019 tax return, their AGI would have been too high to receive an Economic Impact Payment. But since the focus is on the $80,000 in AGI, our fictitious taxpayer will be receiving a stimulus check... albeit a reduced one. Since this single filer made $5,000 more than $75,000 cutoff to receive a full payout, and $5 in stimulus money is removed per $100 in AGI over $75,000, this individual would receive a $950 payout.
Example 2: A married couple with three children, aged 11, 14, and 17, who also take care of a dependent senior parent. The married couple's AGI was $120,000 in 2019. How much stimulus money will the household receive?
Answer: The initial factor to take note of here is that the married couple is below the $150,000 AGI threshold required to receive the full $2,400 payout. So, to begin with, we know they're receiving at least $2,400. The focus then turns to the four dependents. Because the 11-year-old and 14-year-old children are both under the age of 17, they'll each add $500 to the stimulus payout for the household. However, neither the 17-year-old child nor the senior dependent will qualify for the $500 kicker. Thus, the final tally for this household is $3,400.
Example 3: An undocumented immigrant who has two American-born children, ages 3 and 5, and who earned $30,000 in AGI in 2019. How much stimulus money will this individual receive?
Answer: Although green-card holders with a clear pathway to citizenship are eligible to receive an Economic Impact Payment, undocumented workers -- even those with a taxpayer identification number who pay federal tax, but who do not have a Social Security number -- will not receive a stimulus check. Even though both children meet the qualifying factors for the $500 per-child payout to the household, and the individual in question earned less than the $75,000 in AGI to receive a full payout, this worker will receive no stimulus money because of citizenship status.
With direct deposit checks arriving daily, and paper checks expected to hit mailboxes over the next 20 weeks, it pays to know how much stimulus money is potentially headed your way.