Basic Information on the Stimulus Payments


Notice: Historical Content

This is an archival or historical document and may not reflect current law, policies or procedures.

Updated July 18, 2008

Find out more about what it is and how to get it, if you haven’t already.

What is it? It's an economic stimulus payment that more than 124 million households will receive. It's not taxable, and it won't reduce your 2007 or 2008 refund or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2008 return. Payments started in May and will continue through the end of 2008.

Are you eligible? The majority of people who file a 2007 income tax return qualify, and many who don't regularly file a tax return may qualify as well. You're eligible if you have a valid Social Security number (SSN), can't be claimed as a dependent on a tax return and have either an income tax liability or "qualifying income" of at least $3,000. Qualifying income includes any combination of earned income and certain benefits from Social Security, Veterans Affairs or Railroad Retirement. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count as qualifying income for the stimulus payment. Additional information is below, and a full legal description is available in Revenue Procedure 2008-21PDF.

Both people listed on a "married filing jointly" return must have valid SSNs to qualify for the payment — if only one has a valid SSN, neither can receive the payment (there’s an exception for members of the military who file joint returns — see below).

Can you use an ITIN instead of an SSN? Taxpayers with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of an SSN are not eligible to receive a stimulus payment. Both people listed on a "married filing jointly" return must have valid SSNs to qualify for the payment — if only one has a valid SSN, neither can receive the payment. 

However, a new law passed in June, the HEART Act, made an exception to the SSN requirement for married members of the military, including couples with children. In November, stimulus payments will be sent to more than 10,000 military families affected by this change and who already had filed a return. They need do nothing more. See the New Law: Additional Military Families to Get Stimulus Payments This Fall.

Not eligible at the current time? If you're not eligible this year but you become eligible next year, you can claim your payment next year on your 2008 tax return.  

How do you get it? Just file a federal tax return for 2007 by Oct. 15, 2008, even if you normally don't have to because your income usually doesn't meet the filing threshhold. Those who normally don't have to file a tax return and can use the short form for the stimulus payment can check out tax package 1040A-3, which has instructions, a sample Form 1040A and a blank Form 1040A — everything needed to file the tax form.

How much will you get? The actual amount depends on the information contained on your tax return. Eligible individuals will receive between $300 and $600. Those who are eligible and file a joint return will receive a total of between $600 and $1,200. Those with children will get an additional $300 for each qualifying child. To qualify, a child must be eligible under the Child Tax CreditPDF and have a valid Social Security number. We have various examples for you check out. 

The payments phase out at certain income levels, so those with higher incomes may receive a reduced payment or even no payment.

Can you estimate your payment? An online calculator allows you to answer a few questions and get a quick estimate of your payment amount.

How will you receive the payment? Be sure to choose direct deposit when you file your tax return, even if you aren't due a regular tax refund on your tax return. That way, the stimulus payment will go right to your bank account. Otherwise, we'll mail you a check.

When will you get your payment? It will generally take a minimum of eight weeks after you file your return to get your stimulus payment. If you’re getting a regular income tax refund, the IRS will send you that refund first. Your separate stimulus payment should follow one to two weeks after you receive your refund. Find out more.

What if some or all of your income consists of Social Security, veterans' or other benefits? The economic stimulus law allows Social Security recipients and recipients of certain veterans' benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits to count those benefits towards the qualifying income requirement of $3,000. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count as qualifying income for the stimulus payment. To get the payment, you have to file a 2007 tax return using either Form 1040PDF or the short Form 1040APDF

Learn More about the Economic Stimulus Payments

For more information, check out our:

Warning — Scam Artists Are Contacting Taxpayers about the Stimulus Payments

The IRS is not e-mailing or calling taxpayers about their stimulus payment.  So if someone claiming to be from the IRS calls or e-mails you about the payments and asks you for a Social Security, bank account or credit card number or similar information, it's a scam. The scammers are trying to get your personal and financial information so they can empty your bank account, run up charges on your credit card and more. Find out more — see IR-2008-11, IRS Warns of New E-Mail and Telephone Scams Using the IRS Name; Advance Payment Scams Starting.