The recovery rebate credit is a one-time benefit for people who didn't receive the full economic stimulus payment in 2008 and whose circumstances may have changed, making them eligible now for some or all of the unpaid portion.
Generally, a credit adds to the amount of your tax refund or lowers the amount of taxes owed. Therefore, the amount you receive for the recovery rebate credit will be included as part of your refund, as shown on your tax return.
You May Be Eligible
People who fall into the categories described below may be eligible for the recovery rebate credit in their 2008 return:
Individuals who did not receive an economic stimulus payment.
Those who received less than the maximum economic stimulus payment in 2008 — $600 per taxpayer; $1,200 if married filing jointly — because their qualifying or gross income was either too high or too low.
Families who gained an additional qualifying child in 2008.
Individuals who could be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return in 2007, but who cannot be claimed as a dependent on another return in 2008.
Individuals who did not have a valid Social Security number in 2007 but who did receive one in 2008.
How to Get the Recovery Rebate Credit
You need to claim the recovery rebate credit on Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. The instructions for these forms will show you which lines to use. Unlike the economic stimulus payment, the recovery rebate credit will be included in your tax refund for 2008 and will not be issued as a separate payment.
The IRS Will Figure the Credit for You in Most Cases
You can let the IRS figure the credit when you file your 2008 Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. If you're filing on paper, simply follow the line-by-line instructions to choose this option. If you're filing electronically, the software will figure the credit for you.
Or You Can Figure It Yourself
Likewise, you can figure and claim the recovery rebate credit on your 2008 Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. The worksheet in the Form 1040 instruction booklet can help you figure your credit by hand. To complete the worksheet, you'll need the amount of your 2008 economic stimulus payment, if any. This amount was provided on Notice 1378, Economic Stimulus Payment Notice, sent by the IRS to taxpayers who received a payment.
You need to know the amount of your 2008 economic stimulus payment to determine if you are eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit. You will need the total amount of your stimulus payment to complete the Recovery Rebate Credit worksheet that is in the Form 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ instruction booklets. Even if your payment was reduced to satisfy other debts, as would be stated on your Notice 1378, you still need to include the total. If you received more than one payment — and more than one Notice 1378 — enter the total of all payments you received.
Has Your Filing Status Changed?
If your filing status changed for 2008, follow these directions to determine the amount of your total 2008 stimulus payment. You'll need to use this amount when you calculate your 2008 Recovery Rebate Credit.
Find the Answers to Your Questions
You might find what you're looking for on our question and answer page.
Tax Tip 2009-29, How to Correctly Claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2008 Return
IR-2009-10, IRS Offers Tips to Avoid Recovery Rebate Credit Confusion
FS-2009-3, Recovery Rebate Credit Is for Individuals Who Missed Last Year’s Economic Stimulus Payment
Special Edition Tax Tip 2009-2, Four Tips to Help Taxpayers Avoid Errors On the Recovery Rebate Credit