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How to Claim a Missing Stimulus Check on Your 2020 Taxes

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Stimulus checks have been a lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic. There have been three stimulus rounds to date -- the first two in April and December of 2020, and the third, which is still underway. If you're wondering how to claim your stimulus check on your taxes, here's what you need to do.

If you're missing your third stimulus payment, you don't need to take action. It should either hit your bank account soon or you'll get a check or debit card in the mail. But if you're missing your first or second stimulus payment, you'll need to claim that money on your 2020 taxes.

What is the Recovery Rebate Credit?

The Recovery Rebate Credit is a specific tax credit you can claim on your 2020 taxes if you didn't receive your first or second stimulus payment (or both). Tax credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax liability. If you owe the IRS $1,000 but are eligible for a $1,000 tax credit, that debt gets wiped out so you owe nothing.

How much was I supposed to receive?

The amount of stimulus money you were supposed to get depends on your income and tax-filing status.

Stimulus check 1

The stimulus round that went out in April 2020 was worth up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under the age of 17.

You should've been entitled to a full stimulus if you:

  • Earned $75,000 or less as a single tax filer
  • Earned $112,500 or less as a head of household
  • Earned $150,000 or less as a married couple filing jointly

If your earnings were above these limits, you may have been entitled to a partial stimulus. Assuming you couldn't claim for dependents, those payments phased out completely at $99,000 for single tax filers earning, $136,500 for heads of households, and $198,000 for couples.

Payments were based on either your 2018 or 2019 income -- whichever most recent tax return the IRS had on file.

Stimulus check 2

The stimulus that went out in December 2020 was worth up to $600 per adult and $600 per child. As before, if you earned less than $75,000 as a single tax filer or $150,000 as a married couple filing jointly, you should've been entitled to a full stimulus.

If your earnings were above these limits, you may have been entitled to a partial stimulus. Those payments phased out completely for singles without dependents earning $87,000 or more and couples without dependents earning $174,000 or more.

As with the first round, the IRS used either a 2018 or 2019 tax return to calculate stimulus payments.

How do I claim stimulus check payments on my taxes?

To get a missing stimulus payment, you'll need to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your return. Unfortunately, when you file your taxes, you won't see anything that says "missing stimulus checks."

You'll find the Recovery Rebate Credit on line 20 of your Form 1040. Fill in the difference between the amount of stimulus money you received and the amount you're owed. In other words, if you're owed $1,800 but received $600, you'd enter $1,200.

How do you figure that out? The IRS has a Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet in its Form 1040 instructions. Use that worksheet to calculate your credit. If you're filing your taxes electronically, the software will help you determine how much you're owed.

Hint: Filing electronically could make your life a lot easier

Even if you normally submit a paper tax return, it pays to file your 2020 taxes electronically. Not only will it be easier to calculate the Recovery Rebate Credit, but it could help you avoid other mistakes. Plus, if you're due a refund from the Recovery Rebate Credit, you'll get it a lot faster with an electronic return.

Claiming a missing stimulus check 1: Issued April 2020

Here's how to claim your first missing stimulus check:

  • Verify you qualified based on your 2018 or 2019 income.
  • Make sure you didn't receive what you should have.
  • Use the IRS worksheet to figure out how much you should've received. You could also use an online calculator or your electronic filing software.
  • Claim that amount as the Recovery Rebate Credit.
  • Wait for your money to arrive as a tax refund. If you owe the IRS more than it owes you in missing stimulus funds, your tax debt will be reduced by that amount. In other words, if you're due $600 in stimulus but you owe the IRS $1,000, you'd just send the IRS $400.

Unfortunately, you can no longer use the IRS's Get My Payment tool to see how much you were entitled to under the first two stimulus rounds. At this point, that tool only works for the third stimulus payment.

Claiming a missing stimulus check 2: Issued December 2020

To claim your second missing stimulus check, simply follow the instructions above. Keep in mind that this stimulus payment was only worth half as much as the first one.

How to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 taxes

To claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your taxes, you'll need to:

  • Verify which stimulus payments you're missing.
  • Confirm the amount you're missing from each stimulus round.
  • Enter the amount you're owed for the Recovery Rebate Credit.
  • Deduct the amount you're owed from your total tax debt and send the IRS a payment for the difference. If your taxes come to less than the stimulus money, wait for the IRS to issue you a refund.

Of course, the Recovery Rebate Credit may be only one of several tax credits you're entitled to. Check out this 2020 tax planning guide -- it's loaded with tips that could help you snag different tax breaks.

FAQs

  • If you didn't get one or both of your first two stimulus payments, you can claim the money on your 2020 taxes in the form of the Recovery Rebate Credit. If you're owed money, you'll receive your missing stimulus cash as a tax refund form -- either as a check in the mail or a direct deposit in your bank account. If you owe the IRS money, you'll be allowed to deduct your missing stimulus funds from your tax debt.

  • The Recovery Rebate Credit is the tax credit you can claim if you didn't receive a first- or second-round stimulus payment. The credit is new and specific to 2020 taxes.

  • Yes. If you were entitled to a second stimulus payment but it never came, be sure to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit.

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