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Everything You Need to Know About the Third Stimulus Check

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On Thursday, March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill authorized a third stimulus check valued at up to $1,400 per eligible adult and dependent. Here's what you need to know about the third stimulus payment.

How much is the third stimulus check?

The third stimulus check is the largest direct payment to date. Under the third stimulus package, Americans will receive:

  • $1,400 per qualifying adult
  • $1,400 per eligible dependent

This means a family of four could get $5,600 in stimulus funds, depending on their income. A married couple without children could get a payment of up to $2,800.

The first stimulus checks, authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), totaled a maximum of $1,200 per adult and $500 per eligible dependent child. The second stimulus check provided $600 in stimulus money per eligible adult and dependent child. Each relief package also included enhanced unemployment benefits and other forms of assistance.

Who is eligible to receive the third stimulus payment?

Any U.S. citizen whose income is under a certain threshold will qualify for the third stimulus payment. And, there are more dependents included in stimulus payments this time around.

The third check is available to all dependents. This includes college students and other adult dependents such as elderly individuals being cared for by relatives. Only child dependents under 17 qualified for payments under the first two stimulus checks.

However, income rules differ for the third check. The income threshold for the full amount of stimulus money has not changed. But eligibility phases out much faster. This means many higher earners who got the first or second stimulus payment will not receive the third check.

The table below shows the income limits for a full or partial third stimulus check.

Tax Filing Status Eligible for full third stimulus check Eligible for partial third stimulus check Not eligible for any payment from the third stimulus check
Single $75,000 $75,500 - $80,000 $80,000 or higher
Head of household $112,500 $112,500 - $120,000 $120,000 or higher
Married filing jointly $150,000 $150,000 - $160,000 $160,000 or higher

Previously, eligibility for the first and second stimulus checks phased out at a rate of $5 per $100 earned above the income limit. This meant singles with an income up to $99,000 could still receive checks. Married couples could receive payments with incomes up to $198,000 -- or higher if they had dependents.

Some lawmakers were concerned that wealthy Americans with incomes over $300,000 or more could claim the third stimulus payment. These strict new phase-out rules were put into place to ensure the COVID-19 direct payments are distributed to those most in need.

Will I receive a third stimulus check if I didn't file 2020 taxes?

Most people will receive the third stimulus check even if they haven't filed a 2020 tax return.

The IRS will use information from your 2019 tax return to determine eligibility and how much you're owed. If you used the IRS tool for non-filers to claim either of the prior two checks, the IRS can use this information for your third payment. The IRS will also use information from the Social Security Administration or VA for past checks to send payments to non-filers.

However, there are certain situations where you may need to file a 2020 return to obtain a third check. These include:

  • If you were claimed as a dependent in 2019 but not in 2020.
  • If your income was above the eligibility threshold in 2019 but fell below it in 2020.
  • If you have new dependents in 2020. If the IRS isn't informed of them, you should still receive your own payment. But you will not receive the $1,400 for your new dependent unless you declare them on your 2020 return.

If you need to submit a return, you should do so as quickly as possible. If you don't receive the full amount of your third stimulus check because the IRS does not have updated information, you may not get your money until next year. You might have to submit your 2021 tax return to get your stimulus money. The IRS will not begin accepting 2021 returns until late January or early February 2022.

When can I expect to receive the third stimulus check?

The IRS has already begun to send the third stimulus check out via direct deposit to millions of Americans. If your bank account is on file, you may have received one already. The IRS will first send direct payments to those who provided their bank information directly. Next, direct payments will go to individuals whose bank information the IRS obtained from other government agencies, such as the VA.

The IRS will begin mailing physical checks around March 29, and economic impact payment cards (debit cards) are expected to be distributed from April 5.

The Get My Payment tool on the IRS site will tell you the status of your payment and an estimate of when you'll receive your check or direct deposit. The tool updates once every day, and you'll need to fill in some personal information to find out your payment status.

Can my stimulus payment be garnished?

The IRS will not garnish your stimulus payments for past-due taxes. However, private debt collectors can garnish stimulus payments if they have a valid court order.

Some federal lawmakers hope to pass new legislation that would protect the funds. The second stimulus check was broadly protected, and lawmakers are hoping for bipartisan support to keep the third check out of the hands of debt collectors. However, it is not clear if legislation will successfully pass as the third stimulus payment was not supported by any Republicans.

State governments in certain locations, including in Maryland, have also passed laws that protect your check from garnishment. If you live in a state with this protection, debt collectors cannot take the money.

If your state does not shield the funds from debt collectors and the federal government does not take action, there is a risk your account could be frozen. The money from the American Rescue Plan Act could be diverted to creditors.

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