Now that Trump did sign the new pandemic relief law, and the increase to $2,000 is not happening, when and how are the $600 payments coming?
Last Sunday (on December 27) President Trump signed the pandemic relief law that Congress had passed 6 days earlier. Because between its passage and before signing he’d surprisingly strongly objected to it, his signing was also a surprise. The events of that unusual week were the topic of our last blog post.
The new law includes pandemic relief checks of $600 (instead of the $1,200 amount in last spring’s CARES Act). This past week there were a series of events related to possibly increasing the $600 pandemic relief checks to $2,000. But after all that, now it’s clear that that’s not happening. At least not for a while.
The present Congress ended on Sunday, January 3, 2021, and any laws not passed died with it. “When one Congress expires, all the pending legislation goes with it.” (Congressional Institute). That included any laws in either the House of Representatives or the Senate dealing with the increase to $2,000. The new Congress started on the same day, January 3, and may or may not try to pass additional pandemic relief payments in the future.
But in the meantime what’s going on with the now-approved $600 “Economic Impact Payments”?
Who Gets the $600 Pandemic Relief Payments?
Many of the rules for distributing the payments are the same as for the $1,200 CARES Act payments of last spring.
The $600 payments are going to all U.S. citizens and resident aliens. Sensibly, married couples who filed income taxes jointly are receiving $1,200 (2 times $600).
In addition, that same $600 amount is going to all dependent children 16 years old or less. (This is an increase from the $500 per child under CARES.) As stated in a December 29, 2020 IRS news release:
Generally, U.S. citizens and resident aliens who are not eligible to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s income tax return are eligible for this second payment.
However, dependents 17 years or older aren’t eligible to receive anything.
As with the CARES Act, the payments are reduced for individuals with 2019 adjusted gross income of more than $75,000. For married couples who filed joint returns, that income amount is $150,000. The payments phase out completely for individuals with income of $87, 000 and for couples at $174,000. These phase-out amounts are lower than under the CARES Act (which were $99,000 and $198,000, respectively).
Another change expanded eligibility for this time. The IRS news release puts it this way:
Under the earlier CARES Act, joint returns of couples where only one member of the couple had a Social Security number were generally ineligible for a payment – unless they were a member of the military. But this month’s new law changes and expands that provision, and more people are now eligible. In this situation, these families will now be eligible to receive payments for the taxpayers and qualifying children of the family who have work-eligible SSNs.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s recent press release announced the timing of the payments as follows:
Today [December 29], the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service will begin delivering a second round of Economic Impact Payments to millions of Americans as part of the implementation of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021. The initial direct deposit payments may begin arriving as early as tonight for some and will continue into next week. Paper checks will begin to be mailed tomorrow, Wednesday, December 30.
What to Do to Get Your Pandemic Relief Payment
The same Treasury press release states that “[t]his second round of payments will be distributed automatically, with no action required for eligible individuals.” The more detailed IRS news release of the same date adds the following details:
Some Americans may see the direct deposit payments as pending or as provisional payments in their accounts before the official payment date of January 4, 2021. The IRS reminds taxpayers that the payments are automatic, and they should not contact their financial institutions or the IRS with payment timing questions.
As with the first round of payments under the CARES Act, most recipients will receive these payments by direct deposit. For Social Security and other beneficiaries who received the first round of payments via Direct Express, they will receive this second payment the same way.
Anyone who received the first round of payments earlier this year but doesn’t receive a payment via direct deposit will generally receive a check or, in some instances, a debit card. For those in this category, the payments will conclude in January.
Also, from the same IRS source:
Payments are automatic for eligible taxpayers who filed a 2019 tax return, those who receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who didn’t file a tax return. Payments are also automatic for anyone who successfully registered for the first payment online at IRS.gov using the agency’s Non-Filers tool by November 21, 2020 or who submitted a simplified tax return that has been processed by the IRS.
If You’re Eligible But You Don’t Get the Payment . . .
The following applies both to the prior CARES payments and the new $600 ones. Both sets of payments are actually special income tax credits that the U.S. Treasury is paying in advance. Usually we receive tax credits after we file our income tax returns. But not these. These Economic Impact Payments are advance payments of the “Recovery Rebate Credit” on our upcoming tax returns.
So if you’re eligible for but for any reason do not receive either the CARES or the new $600 payments, claim it as a tax credit on your next income tax returns and receive payment that way.
To Get More Information about Your Pandemic Relief Payment . . .
The U.S Treasury Department and the IRS were both saying on Tuesday, December 29, that “later this week, you may check the status of your payment at IRS.gov/GetMyPayment.”
Unfortunately that has proved to be inaccurate. As of Monday moring, January 4, 2021, that webpage was not yet working. A note there said “Get My Payment is Temporarily Offline” but would be up “in the near future.”