Stimulus check requirements for the third round are more generous and stringent at the same time. We’ll explain.
The third stimulus checks are hitting the 130 million mark by direct deposit and by mail as paper checks and EIP cards. A third wave of checks is ramping up for this weekend and next week. If your check for up to $1,400 per household member hasn’t come yet, it’s a good idea to triple-check your eligibility. If you do, here’s how to track your payment and what to do if there’s a problem with your check.
The requirements for the third payment have changed significantly from the first and second checks. For example, there are new income limits and rules for age, citizenship and tax status that can affect the size of your payment. We’ll walk you through what those qualifications are to help you determine whether you should expect a check — or whether you’ll be completely left out. (And here’s how to calculate the amount to expect.)
Additionally, here’s how to claim any missing stimulus money or file a payment trace if you need to. We’ll also explain some other, less common scenarios, with details for nonfilers, people with babies born in 2020 and families in child support situations. (By the way, here’s what we know about a fourth stimulus check.) This story was updated recently.
Important: Third stimulus check qualification details
The third stimulus checks now going out open up more avenues for people to claim a payment — so long as their yearly earnings in 2019 or 2020 fall within the brackets for receiving the third check. These new payments come with changes to the income limit for individuals and families who’d qualify for a full stimulus payment — it isn’t the same as it was for the first two rounds of checks approved in 2020. Check out the chart below for more and use our stimulus calculator to estimate how much you could get.
Third stimulus check: Qualifications
|Qualifying group||What the law says|
|Individuals||An AGI of less than $80,000 to qualify for any payment amount|
|Head of household||An AGI of less than $120,000 to qualify for any payment amount|
|Couple filing jointly||An AGI of less than $160,000 to qualify for any payment amount|
|Dependents of all ages||$1,400 apiece, no cap — but only if guardians make under the above limits|
|Families with mixed US citizenship||Provided they meet other qualifications|
|US citizens living abroad||Yes, same as first two checks|
|Citizens of US territories||Yes, same as first two checks, with payments handled by each territory|
|SSDI and other tax nonfilers||Yes, but may require an extra step to claim (more below)|
|Incarcerated people||Yes, included this time|
|People who owe child support||Checks can’t be garnished to cover past due payments (more below)|
|Disqualified groups||Not covered by law|
|Non-US citizens||“Resident aliens” aren’t included|
|Noncitizens who pay taxes||Depends on “mixed-status” rules (more below)|
Social Security, SSI, SSDI, veterans: What you need to know about eligibility and your stimulus payment
The majority of people who are part of the SSI or SSDI programs qualify for a check — read our guide for details. This time, many will get their payments on their existing Direct Express card, though some may receive stimulus money a different way. Consult our guide for more on what to know and do, including if you need to claim a dependent by filing a tax return for 2020.
Stimulus money for veterans who don’t usually file taxes are expected to receive their stimulus checks in mid-April, after many Social Security recipients. Here’s more to know about veterans and stimulus eligibility.
Recipients of the first check received their payments through a non-Direct Express bank account or as a paper check sent in the mail. In the December bill, these recipients again qualified to receive payments, along with Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans Administration beneficiaries.
Now playing: Watch this: Stimulus check 3: How much money you’ll get
Are my dependents eligible with this check?
As a rule, dependents are not eligible for their own checks, but they do contribute to the total your household can receive. In many cases, it can multiple your family’s total. (Here’s who the IRS considers an adult who receives their own check.)
In the third stimulus check, dependents of every age count toward $1,400. If you’re a parent of a baby born in 2020, you could be entitled to $1,100 if you never received the first two payments for your new dependent last year. You can also get $1,400 for a baby born in 2021. Note that if your household exceeds the strict income limits, you won’t receive any stimulus check money, even if you have dependents.
With the second stimulus check approved in December, each child dependent — age 16 and younger — added $600 each to the household payment. There was no cap on how many children you could claim a payment. That was an increase in the amount per child from the $500 that was part of the first check approved last March as part of the CARES Act, even as the per-adult maximum decreased from $1,200 per adult to $600 in the December stimulus plan.
The final qualifications for a third stimulus check have been settled.
Citizenship: Does the IRS consider my household mixed-status?
In the $900 billion stimulus package from December, a US citizen and noncitizen spouse were both eligible for a payment as long as they both had Social Security numbers. This has been referred to as a “mixed-status” household when it comes to citizenship. Households with mixed US citizenship were left out of the first check.
The new stimulus bill includes all mixed-status households where just one member has a Social Security number for a third stimulus check. That potentially includes families with citizen children and noncitizen parents.
In the CARES Act from last March, households with a person who wasn’t a US citizen weren’t eligible to receive a stimulus check, even if one spouse and a child were US citizens.
Eligibility details for noncitizens and the $1,400 stimulus payment
The CARES Act made a Social Security number a requirement for that first stimulus payment. Though other proposals would’ve expanded the eligibility to those with an ITIN instead of a Social Security number because they’re classified as a resident or nonresident alien, this group was excluded in the final bill text that authorized a second stimulus check in December as well.
The new bill expands the qualifications to include all mixed-status families — where at least one member has a Social Security number — for a third check.
The definition of a child dependent didn’t change with a second stimulus check, but it does with the third.
Can past-due child support affect my stimulus total?
If you owed child support, your first stimulus payment could have been taken for arrears (the amount you owed). With the second check, those who owed child support didn’t have their payment garnished to cover past-due payments. The new bill with the $1,400 payment doesn’t exclude garnishments, so your check could be garnished to pay a private past-due debt.
One more exception for people who are missing payments of any amount and need to claim the stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit in their taxes: The protection from garnishment laid out in the second check doesn’t extend to catch-up payments made in the Recovery Rebate Credit, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent government agency that works with the IRS. That means that all or part of stimulus money received this way could potentially be seized to pay outstanding debts. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is urging the IRS to keep rebate credits intact.
Yes, inmates can receive stimulus money
After months of back and forth, the IRS was ordered by a federal judge to send the first stimulus checks to people who are incarcerated. They are included in the new law, which means they’ll qualify for the $1,400 check.
The IRS classifies me as an older adult. What should I know?
Many older adults, including retirees over age 65, received a first stimulus check under the CARES Act and were eligible for the second one — and are for the third as well. For older adults and retired people, factors like your tax filings, your AGI, your pension and if you’re part of the SSI or SSDI program (more below) will affect whether you receive a stimulus payment.
The third stimulus check makes older adult dependents eligible to receive more money on behalf of the household. Here’s how to determine if you qualify for your own stimulus check or count as a dependent.
How much stimulus money you could get depends on who you are.
Nonfilers: You may need to file your 2020 tax return this year to get the right stimulus check amount
If you need to add a dependent the IRS doesn’t know about, you’ll need to file a simple 2020 tax return to claim them. You may also be able to get missing money for the first two checks as well, by claiming it on your taxes in 2021 as a Recovery Rebate Credit.
With the second payment, the IRS used your 2019 tax returns to determine eligibility. Nonfilers, who weren’t required to file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019, may still be eligible to receive the first stimulus check under the CARES Act. And this group will qualify again. Here are reasons you might not have been required to file:
Taxes and stimulus check eligibility: The two go hand-in-hand
For most people, taxes and stimulus checks are tightly related. For example, the most important factor in setting income limits is your AGI, which determines how much of the total stimulus payment you would be entitled to receive. The same holds true with a third stimulus check.
$1,400 stimulus check income limits
|Full $1,400 per person maximum (based on AGI)||Not eligible (based on AGI)|
|Single taxpayer||Less than $75,000||$80,000 or more|
|Head of household||Less than $112,500||$120,000 or more|
|Married couple filing jointly||Less than $150,000||$160,000 or more|
Here’s what we know about whether Congress will use your 2019 tax information to determine your payment or if it will look at your 2020 tax returns to set your check amount — and what happens if you get too much money or not enough because of it.
For more information, here’s how to track your stimulus payment, every way the stimulus bill benefits you and what to know about the 2021 child tax credit.