Here’s why some people’s Economic Impact Payment is different than expected

COVID Tax Tip 2020-59, May 20, 2020

As people across the country receive their Economic Impact Payments, some might receive a different amount than they expected.

Eligible individuals receive a payment for $1,200. Two eligible individuals filing a joint return receive $2,400. And, eligible individuals receive up to an additional $500 for each qualifying child who meets the conditions outlined on the Qualifying Child Requirements page.

The Economic Impact Payment is automatic for eligible people who filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019. They're also automatic for those who aren't required to file a tax return but who receive:

  • Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits.
  • Railroad Retirement benefits.
  • Supplemental Security Income.
  • Veterans Affairs benefits.

People who receive less than expected can go to IRS.gov and review this chart (PDF) to check the payment they should receive. It has examples that use filing status and income to calculate the payment amount.

Here are some common things that help explain what may have happened:

  • The taxpayer hasn't filed a 2019 tax return, and their payment was based on the 2018 return. This could also be the case if the IRS has not finished processing the 2019 return.
  • The qualifying child is not under the age of 17. For purposes of the payment, the child's age is how old they are at the end of the year for the tax return on which the IRS bases the payment amount. If a dependent is 17 or older, they don't qualify for the additional $500. This includes a parent or other relative, and college students.
  • The Economic Impact Payment was offset by past-due child support. While this is the only offset that can affect the payment amount, federal law allows creditors to garnish a payment once it's deposited into a bank account.

In many instances, eligible taxpayers who received a payment that was smaller than expected may get an additional amount early next year when they file their 2020 federal income tax return.

Anyone with questions about the payment can visit the Economic Impact Payments Information Center. It has answers to questions about eligibility, payment amounts, what to expect, and when to expect it.

Subscribe to IRS Tax Tips