Questions and Answers about the First Economic Impact Payment — Topic A: Eligibility

A1. Generally, you were eligible for the first Economic Impact Payment if you are a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien, you  were not claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer and have a Social Security number valid for employment.  We issued payments of $1,200 ($2,400 for a joint return) to individuals whose adjusted gross income (AGI) did not exceed:

  • $150,000  if married and filing a joint return
  • $112,500 if filing as  head of household or
  • $75,000  for eligible individuals using any other filing status
    Payments were  reduced by 5% of  the amount by which your AGI exceeds the applicable threshold above.

Update: In December 2020, the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 increased the AGI phaseout amount for a Qualifying Widow(er) from $75,000 to $150,000.  As a result, widows and widowers whose income was more than $75,000 should complete the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet to determine whether they may claim additional amounts as a Recovery Rebate Credit on line 30 of their 2020 tax return.

You were not eligible for the first  payment if any of the following apply to you:

  • You were claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer’s return (for example, a child or student who may be claimed on a parent’s return or a dependent parent who may be claimed on an adult child’s return).
  • You are a nonresident alien.
  • You do not have a Social Security number that is valid for employment.

Update: The first Economic Impact Payment was not made to married couples filing joint returns unless both spouses had Social Security numbers valid for employment or at least one spouse was a member of the military. In December 2020, the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 changed this requirement. As a result, a married couple filing a joint return is eligible for a partial Recovery Rebate Credit when only one spouse has a Social Security number valid for employment. If you and your spouse didn’t receive the first Economic Impact Payment because one of you did not have a Social Security number valid for employment, you may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on line 30 of your 2020 tax return.

In addition, the following are ineligible for a payment: individuals who died prior to January 1, 2020, and estates or trusts.

Update: Individuals who died in 2020 or 2021 may not have received Economic Impact Payments. If you file a 2020 return for an individual who died in 2020 or 2021, you should complete the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet in the Instructions for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR to determine whether the Recovery Rebate Credit is allowable for the decedent. 

A2. You may be eligible for a payment if you have an SSN that is valid for employment, you can’t be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer., and your adjusted gross income does not exceed a certain amount. Nonresident aliens who file or would file Form 1040-NR or Form 1040-NR-EZ are not eligible for the payment.

A3. In many cases, the answer is yes. But special rules in the law apply to these five U.S. territories (possessions). In general, the tax authority in each territory will make payments to eligible residents. If you are a resident of one of these territories with questions about a payment, you should contact your local tax authority.

Resident of a U.S Territory: If you receive a payment from the IRS and a U.S territory tax agency and you are a resident of a U.S. territory for the 2020 tax year, please consult with your U.S. territory tax agency concerning information about an incorrect or duplicate payment. 

Not a resident of a U.S. Territory: If you have received a payment from more than one jurisdiction and you are a not a resident of a U.S. territory for the 2020 tax year, you should return any incorrect or duplicate payment received from the U.S. territory tax agency to the IRS following the instructions about repayments. Go to Topic I: Returning the Economic Impact Payment for instructions.

A4. Citizenship or residency status in the Freely Associated States, by itself, does not entitle you to a payment. However, if you are a resident of a U.S. territory for the tax year 2020 for U.S. territory income tax purposes, you may be eligible for a payment from the U.S. territory tax agency. To determine whether you are eligible for a payment, consult with your U.S. territory tax agency. Alternatively, if you are not a resident of a U.S. territory for the tax year 2020 but you are a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident for federal income tax purposes, you may be eligible for a payment from the IRS.

Resident of a U.S Territory: You should not receive a payment from both the IRS and a U.S. territory tax agency. If you received a payment from more than one jurisdiction and you are a resident of a U.S. territory for the 2020 tax year, please consult with your U.S. territory tax agency concerning information about payments received, including any incorrect or duplicate payment.

Not a resident of a U.S. Territory: If you have received a payment from more than one jurisdiction and you are a NOT a resident of a U.S. territory for the 2020 tax year, you should return any incorrect or duplicate payment received from the U.S. territory tax agency to the IRS following the instructions about repayments. Go to Topic I: Returning the Economic Impact Payment for instructions.

A5. If a first payment was made to someone who died prior to January 1, 2020,  it should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions in Topic I: Returning the Economic Impact Payment.

Joint filers with a deceased spouse: For payments made to joint filers with a deceased spouse who died before January 1, 2020, return the decedent’s portion of the payment. This amount will be $1,200 unless your adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.

If you can’t cash or deposit the check: If you cannot cash or deposit the payment because it was issued to you and a deceased spouse, return the check as described in Topic I: Returning the Economic Impact Payment. After the IRS receives and processes your returned payment, your first  Economic Impact Payment will be reversed to you and you can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return, Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR.

  • The IRS is aware that some surviving spouses weren’t issued their portion of the payment. Eligible individuals who didn’t receive a payment may be eligible to claim the ​​​​​Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.

The Bureau of the Fiscal Services (BFS) has cancelled outstanding Economic Impact Payment (EIP) checks issued to recipients who may not be eligible, including those who may be deceased. Recipients should still return these checks as described in Topic I: Returning the Economic Impact Payment instructions.  

Update: With regard to eligible individuals who died in 2020, the Recovery Rebate Credit may be claimed on line 30 of their 2020 tax return if the first Economic Impact Payments were not issued.  Please refer to the Instructions for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR for more information.

Q6. A person who is a qualifying resident alien with an SSN valid for employment is eligible for the payment only if he or she is a qualifying resident alien in 2020 and may not be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer. An alien who received a payment but is not a qualifying resident alien for 2020 should return the payment to the IRS by following the instructions in Topic I: Returning the Economic Impact Payment.

A7. Pursuant to a permanent injunction entered in Scholl v. Mnuchin, No. 20-cv-05309 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 14, 2020), the IRS cannot deny a payment to someone who is incarcerated if they meet the criteria described above in the response to Q A1. For more information see Q B13. I am currently incarcerated, or I was incarcerated at some point in 2020, and I have not received a payment.  What do I need to do to get a payment?

If you didn’t receive a payment, you may be eligible to claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit and must file a 2020 tax return to claim the credit.

 A8. For purposes of the first Economic Impact Payment, a valid SSN for a payment is one that is valid for employment and is issued by the SSA before the due date of your 2019 tax return (including the filing deadline postponement to July 15 and an extension to October 15 if you request it) or your 2018 tax return (including extensions) if you haven’t filed your 2019 tax return.

If the individual was a U.S. citizen when they received the SSN, then it is valid for employment. If “Not Valid for Employment” is printed on the individual’s Social Security card and the individual’s immigration status has changed so that they are now a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, ask the SSA for a new Social Security card. However, if “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” is printed on the individual's Social Security card, the individual has the required SSN only as long as the Department of Homeland Security authorization is valid.

If you didn’t receive an Economic Impact Payment because you did not have an SSN that is valid for employment before the due date of the 2019 or 2018 return, you may be able to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit if you are issued an SSN valid for employment before the due date of your 2020 return (including extensions) and meet all other eligibility criteria.  If you are married and file a joint return and did not receive an Economic Impact Payment because either you or your spouse did not have an SSN valid for employment issued before the due date of the return that was used to determine eligibility for the Economic Impact Payment, you may be able to claim the2020  Recovery Rebate Credit if at least one of you has or is issued an SSN valid for employment before the due date of your 2020 return (including extensions).  Similarly, you may be able to claim an additional amount in 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit for a child who has or is issued an SSN valid for employment before the due date of your 2020 tax return (including extensions).

A9. The first Economic Impact Payment did not include an additional amount for these children because the payment was based only on information from your 2019 or 2018 tax return. You may claim qualifying children born, adopted or placed into your foster care  in 2020 for the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit and must file a 2020 tax return to claim the credit, if eligible.