With the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continuing its distribution of stimulus checks of up to $1,400, many Americans are learning that they may be eligible for extra money. The key to unlocking eligibility for additional stimulus money lies in the filing of 2020 tax returns.
At the federal level, filing 2020 tax returns helps determine eligibility for what the IRS has dubbed plus-up payments. These supplemental stimulus payments are currently being distributed to individuals and households who, based on their 2019 tax returns, initially did not qualify for some or all of a third-round stimulus check. 2020 tax returns now allow these individuals and households to receive larger payments.
Many people who have filed 2020 tax returns may also find that they are eligible for one-time tax credits and bonuses as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The law, which was also the genesis for the $1,400 third-round stimulus checks, contains a number of provisions designed to provide financial relief for those struggling with the effects of the ongoing pandemic. These include government-paid health insurance premiums for workers laid off from their jobs, tax rebate credits for Americans who did not receive all of the money they were eligible for as part of the first two rounds of stimulus payments, child and childcare tax credits, saver’s credits for those who contributed to IRAs, and credits for older Americans and those with disabilities.
State-Level Relief Programs
In addition to relief at the federal level, filing 2020 tax returns can allow individuals to qualify for state-level programs designed to provide financial relief to those struggling through the pandemic. Some states, including California, are running programs that aim to provide financial help to cover the cost of health insurance.
Californians who file their 2020 tax returns may also find that they qualify for state-level stimulus money through the Golden State Stimulus program. This program will provide eligible Californians with a one-time payment of either $600 or $1,200, in addition to the up to $1,400 they may receive in federal stimulus money.
To qualify for the Golden State Stimulus program, Californians must either be recipients of the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) or file using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) who earned less than $75,000. ITINs are typically issued to individuals who do not have or are not eligible for Social Security numbers, meaning the Golden State Stimulus program is open to undocumented residents of California.
Whether qualifying Californians will receive $600 or $1,200 depends on a combination of their status as a CalEITC recipient, filing taxes using an ITIN, and whether a return is filed as an individual or jointly.
Given the importance of 2020 tax returns for access to programs and bonuses for coronavirus relief, it is important that Americans take advantage of the May 17 deadline and recognize the potential for delays in receiving bonus payments tied to 2020 returns.
Eli Fuhrman is a contributing writer for The National Interest.