People experiencing homelessness can get Economic Impact Payments and other tax benefits

COVID Tax Tip 2021-54, April 21, 2021

Economic Impact Payments, also known as stimulus payments, are different from most other tax benefits. People can get the payments even if they have little or no income and even if they don't usually file a tax return. This is true if they have a Social Security number and are not being supported by someone else who can claim them.

For the current round of payments, people experiencing homelessness usually qualify to receive $1,400 for themselves. If they are married or have dependents, they can get an additional $1,400 for each of their qualifying family members.

The IRS needs information from people who don't usually file a tax return – even if they did not have any income last year or their income does not require them to file. The only way for the agency to get that information is for people to file a basic 2020 tax return so the IRS knows how and where to send the payment. The IRS will still issue the payment to eligible recipients even if they don't have a job or haven't filed a tax return in prior years. People experiencing homelessness can still get the first two Economic Impact Payments when they file a 2020 return by claiming the recovery rebate credit if they're eligible. There's a special section on for people claiming the recovery rebate credit if they aren't required to file a tax return.

Free filing options. Filing a 2020 federal income tax return can be done electronically at using a smartphone. When the IRS receives the return, it will automatically calculate and issue the Economic Impact Payments.

The fastest and easiest way to claim the 2020 recovery rebate credit or other credits such as the Earned income tax credit and to get the Economic Impact Payment is to file a return electronically using IRS Free File.

Free tax help. People experiencing homelessness may qualify for free help from volunteers or virtually through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs. People who earned less than $57,000 in 2020 or who are ages 60 and up qualify for this service. Some of these sites are not operating at full capacity. To find the nearest open location, people can visit the Free Tax Return Preparation site on, or call 800-906-9887.

Permanent address not required. People can claim an Economic Impact Payment or other credits even if they don't have a permanent address. Someone experiencing homelessness may list the address of a friend, relative or trusted service provider, such as a shelter, drop-in day center or transitional housing program, on the return they file with the IRS. If they are unable to choose direct deposit, a check for the tax refund and the third Economic Impact Payment can then be mailed to this address.

A homeless shelter counts as a home. A worker experiencing homelessness can get the earned income tax credit even if they live in one or more homeless shelters. To get the credit, federal law requires that a worker live in the U.S. for more than half of the year and meet other requirements. This means living in a home in any of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Any place a person regularly lives counts as a home. It doesn't have to be a traditional home; living in one or more homeless shelters meets this requirement.

No bank account? You have options. Many financial institutions will help a person lacking an account to open a low-cost or no-cost bank account so the person has an account and routing number to get a direct deposit of the Economic Impact Payment and any refund they might be eligible for.

People can visit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) website for details on opening an account online. People can also use the FDIC's BankFind tool to locate a nearby FDIC-insured bank. In addition, BankOn, American Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers of America and National Credit Union Administration have lists of banks or credit unions that can open an account online. Veterans should check the Veterans Benefits Banking Program for financial services at participating banks. Reloadable prepaid debit cards or mobile payment apps with routing and account numbers may also be an option.