All the ways a third stimulus check could bring you more money this time – CNET

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More stimulus money might be coming your way. Here are all the ways you could see a larger third payment.


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A third stimulus check for up to $1,400 per person is speeding toward approval (at least compared to the second check) — however, this time it’s likely to be more “targeted” than the others, bringing households less money. And some families may not qualify at all, if Congress goes ahead and introduces a new formula for calculating the payment.

On the other hand, there are new qualifications and income details under discussion as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that could also make the next stimulus payment far larger for your household. (Changes to the child tax credit could add another big bonus, too, and some Californians could see an extra $600 check.)

In addition, a change to the stimulus qualifications or new life circumstances could also lead to a larger third check than you got in the second round of stimulus payments. We’ll walk through some hypothetical situations that could occur. This story was recently updated.

A dependent of any age could count toward $1,400

Child dependents don’t get their own checks, but in the first round of payments, they counted toward $500 apiece to their household, and the second round gave households an additional $600 per child age 16 and under. 

The third stimulus check could raise the figure to $1,400 apiece, The Washington Post reported, going toward the family total. So in theory, a family of four that met all of the income requirements could receive up to $5,600 (calculate your estimate here). It isn’t clear if there would be a cap on the number of dependents you could claim in this situation. 


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More dependents could be included this time toward the household check

Who counts as a dependent? The next stimulus package could have a different answer. For the first and second checks, a dependent was understood to be any child aged 16 or younger. But a growing chorus of voices, including Biden’s, seeks to expand the definition to include anyone you can claim on your tax returns — such as children over 16 and older adults under your care. That would include child dependents of any age with disabilities. The House this week is looking at expanding the definition to include all dependents.

If Congress approves Biden’s proposal — and again, all of this is still in flux — that could bring your family more money by raising the number of overall dependents. It isn’t clear if the new qualifications would only apply to people excluded in the first two rounds, as a make-up payment, though that hasn’t been part of the public conversation.

Does your household have a new dependent?

If you had or adopted a new child, if an older relative moves in with you or if for whatever other reason you’ve gained a dependent since the last round of stimulus payments, you may see a larger check.

Are you a ‘mixed-status’ citizenship family? You could still qualify for a third check

According to Biden’s stimulus plan, more families who are considered “mixed-status” would be eligible for a stimulus check. The second payment broadened the rules for the first check by making it possible for families where one spouse is a US citizen to be eligible for a check. Biden’s proposal would work with more scenarios; for example, it would potentially provide stimulus check money to a household of US-citizen children with noncitizen parents.

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Did you recently get married or have a baby? That could mean more money in a third stimulus payment — potentially as soon as March.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If your employment status changed, it could impact your payment

If you became unemployed this year or your wages dropped, that could lower your adjusted gross income, which is used to determine your payment. For example, if you got a partial payment with the first or second check, a third check could bring you a full payment if you’re no longer employed.

What happens if you got married and are filing jointly for the first time this year? 

Depending on several variables that include your spouse’s filing status and any new dependents, a change in marital status could result in a larger check. For example, if you were single and filing alone, you got $1,200 at most the first time around. Married, you could be eligible for up to $2,400, since the IRS formula used to determine your total stimulus money is based on your combined household income.

If a third stimulus check arrives for $2,000 per person, your spouse could double it to $4,000. Alternatively, if your personal AGI would only get you a partial stimulus check payment on your own, filing jointly with a spouse with an income under the threshold could qualify you for the whole check total.

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With a third check, your stimulus money could add up.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If you share custody of a dependent, it could make a difference

If you meet specific qualifications, you and the child’s other parent may both be entitled to claim extra stimulus money. That means you could get an extra $500 or more in the third stimulus check, especially if anything in your situation changed between the time you filed your 2019 tax return and your future 2020 return. The third check allowance would be based on your most recent tax filing.

A change involving inmates might become permanent

A federal judge has ruled that the IRS owes stimulus checks to inmates in prison who qualify. If the ruling stands, these people may be entitled to a third stimulus check as well as the first two, with more potential money for dependents.

Stimulus checks for undocumented residents: Not decided yet, but still seems unlikely

Democrats have proposed that undocumented US residents be eligible for stimulus relief funds if they pay taxes (through an ITIN number). This provision was part of the Heroes Act that passed the House of Representatives in two forms, but it didn’t become law. Currently, you need to have a Social Security number to be eligible for a stimulus check.

If a third stimulus check arrives, that would mean this group could potentially get a check for thousands of dollars. It seems unlikely to happen, however: On Feb. 4, the Senate passed an amendment blocking stimulus payments from undocumented immigrants. (This has no impact on eligibility for mixed-status families.) While the amendment isn’t binding, it seems unlikely that senators will change their position now that they’re on the record, according to The Hill.

Here’s everything else you need to know about stimulus checks today, including how to claim any missing stimulus money on your 2020 tax return and how to contact the IRS about your missing payment.

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