Why you might not qualify for a second stimulus check even if you got the first payment

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Will you get another stimulus check if one’s approved? Not everyone will.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The second stimulus check mostly follows the same rules as the one before, so if you received any amount in the first direct payment, then you’re a shoe-in for this next influx of COVID-19 relief money, right? Not necessarily. The $900 billion stimulus package makes a change that looks tiny on paper, but could actually keep many families from receiving a second stimulus check

In addition, there may be other forces and eligibility rules that prevent you from qualifying for a second stimulus check, even if it appears at first glance that you meet the requirements. 

We’ll go through the barriers we know about to the next direct payment and why you may not be eligible. For more information, here’s what we know about which payment group you’d be in with a second stimulus check, a possible third stimulus check in 2021 and how a new Congress cold hold the key. This story has been updated with new information.

The calculations are different with a second check

Some things changed with the second stimulus check, including a $600 maximum per adult (down from $1,200 per person) with another $600 per child dependent (up from $500). One thing that did not is the formula the IRS uses to calculate your stimulus check total

The result of some decently complex stimulus check math is that more people will phase out of qualifying for a stimulus check payment, especially if they don’t have children 16 and under, the designated age for a qualified dependent.

So for example, if you’re a single tax filer, don’t have qualified child dependents and your adjusted gross income (AGI) on our 2019 taxes is between $75,000 and $95,000, you would have received a portion of the first ($1,200 max) stimulus check. But at a maximum of $600 per adult, you would phase out of the second payment once you hit $87,000. Read up more in our second stimulus check calculator and try it for yourself.

To determine your adjusted gross income, locate your 2019 tax statement. You’ll find your AGI on line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax form. If you didn’t file taxes in 2019, locate your 2018 tax document and navigate to line 7. 


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Kids older than 16 and students under 24 excluded again

When the first round of stimulus checks was sent, millions of young Americans were excluded from receiving the payment — with these exceptions. Those who were between the ages of 17 and 24 and who were also claimed as child dependents didn’t get a check of their own due to the tax code definition of a child. So if you’re 17 or older, you’re not considered a child under the CARES Act, even if you still live at home.

Although some lawmakers have pushed to expand the definition of a stimulus check dependent regardless of their age, the $900 billion bill has kept the CARES Act definition, but increased the amount from $500 to $600 per qualified child.

Note that even if you’re not considered a child by stimulus check definitions, you also may not be deemed an adult who would receive their own stimulus check. Here’s how to determine if you count as an adult or a dependent for stimulus checks.

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If you make more than the previous cutoff income, you likely won’t qualify for a second check.


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People with ‘nonresident alien’ status, here’s what we know

If you’re a nonresident alien, you may not be eligible for a second stimulus check. The government defines a nonresident alien as someone who “has not passed the green card test or the substantial presence test.” 

Note that you didn’t have to be a US citizen to receive the first stimulus payment. Noncitizens must have a Social Security number and live and work in the US to receive a stimulus check under the CARES Act.

The Democrats’ revised Heroes Act proposal from Oct. 1 wanted to extend stimulus checks to a group of people who aren’t US citizens and pay US taxes, with a taxpayer identification number provided by the IRS.

Rule change: If your spouse is a ‘nonresident alien,’ you may now qualify

The $900 billion stimulus bill allows non-US citizens who have a US citizen spouse to receive a second stimulus check as part of their household, a change from the first payment rules.

With the first check, if you’re married to someone who is considered a nonresident alien, the two of you weren’t able to receive the first stimulus check for yourselves or money for your dependents if you file your taxes jointly — even if the qualifying parent and child are citizens of the US. 

In order to receive the first stimulus check, you would both need to have a Social Security number or be a member of the US Armed Forces during the tax year. If you filed your taxes separately, the citizen may be eligible for a full or partial stimulus payment. The same went for US citizens who claim their child dependents (as head of household) on a separate tax return from the noncitizen spouse. 

With the second check, the family could be eligible as long as they met the other requirements. 

People who owe child support

If you owe child support payments by as much as $150, the government has given states the right to garnish the amount you needed to pay. For example, if you owe $2,000, your entire stimulus check would go to your child’s other parent. If you owe $400, that amount would be taken out of your stimulus check..

Incarcerated people: How the current law stands

Originally, people in jail and prison were deemed by the IRS to be eligible to receive a stimulus check, and then they were interpreted as ineligible. But a ruling by a federal judge in California allows inmates to file for the first stimulus payment online by Nov. 21, noting that the CARES Act didn’t explicitly ban this group. 

The IRS has appealed this decision but has sent paperwork to prisons for inmates. It’s unclear whether incarcerated people will get a second stimulus check. That could depend on the final ruling on the ongoing case.

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Incarcerated people were originally denied a stimulus payment.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Families of people who died since the your last tax return

The IRS “sent almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion to deceased individuals,” according to the US Government Accountability Office, before asking for the money back (return process here).

If someone has died since the previous tax filing, the IRS guidance with the first check is that families can’t keep the money on their behalf — for example, if the deceased filed taxes jointly with a spouse. An exception may be if you receive your spouse’s Social Security survivor benefits. 

With the second check, if your spouse died in 2020 and your AGI is less than $112,500 a year, you would be eligible for the full $600 amount. (A precedent for this exists. Families were able to keep the stimulus checks from the 2008 economic crisis in the event of a death, according to ProPublica and CNBC.)

If by accident a check is addressed to you and you wouldn’t otherwise qualify, the IRS may expect the family to return the payment, though they may not be legally required to do so. 

If you’re still confused about whether you’ll be eligible for the next stimulus payment, here’s who may qualify for a second stimulus check. Also, you may not get a stimulus check if you move and forget to file a change of address. Plus, here’s when the IRS could send the second check, if approved.

source: cnet.com