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What is the Recovery Rebate Credit?

The Recovery Rebate Credit, sometimes referred to as the Stimulus Check Tax Credit, is a correction for any amount missing from a taxpayers' Economic Impact (stimulus) Payments (EIP).

The IRS sent a first round of EIP in 2020. They based the amount of payment they sent out on the information they had from 2019 or 2018 tax returns.

The IRS also sent out a second round of EIP in January 2021. They based the amount of payment they sent out on the information they had from your 2019 tax return.

Common reasons the amount you qualify for may be different from the EIP you received include:

  • Your filing status changed.
  • The number of children you're claiming is different.
  • Your income increased or decreased.

If you qualify for a larger EIP amount based on your 2020 tax return, you qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit, which increases your refund or decreases the amount you owe. The amount of your Recovery Rebate Credit is the amount of EIP you qualify for minus the amount of EIP you actually received.

For example, if you received an EIP of $2,400 in 2019, but you qualify for $2,900 based on your 2020 return, your Recovery Rebate Credit will be $500.

If the amount you qualify for based on your 2020 tax return is lower than the EIP you received, you don't need to repay any money received.

If you qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit, we'll ask you for the amount of EIP you received last year and calculate the credit for you.

How do I know how much Economic Impact Payment (EIP) I received in 2020?

If you received an EIP in 2020 there are a couple of ways you can figure out how much you received:

Refer to Notice 1444 that you should have received in the mail after the payment was made.

Look at your bank statement (note this may not include the full amount if there were offsets for past-due child support).

Who qualifies for Recovery Rebate Credit?

US citizens or residents with a social security number (SSN) who did not receive one or more of the stimulus checks (EIP) or did not receive the full amount of either of the checks, may qualify for the recovery rebate credit. You will need to file your 2020 taxes, even if you are not required to, in order to receive the rebate credit.

The Recovery Rebate Credit does start to decrease at 75,000 (150,000 if married filing jointly) adjusted gross income (AGI). We'll calculate the correct credit based on your 2020 income and any stimulus payments already received.

What if I didn't file my taxes in 2019?

The IRS used the information from 2019 tax returns to send out the second round of EIP. If you didn't file a 2019 tax return, you may have received a stimulus payment based on information the IRS has from any social security or veterans benefits you receive. If you are entitled to a larger amount than the IRS sends you, you may be able to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return.

How will I receive the Recovery Rebate Credit?

The credit will be combined with your tax return, so it will either come in the form of a larger tax refund or lower tax due. Then, how you receive the credit depends on your preference for receiving tax refunds, either through direct deposit or a check in the mail.

Is the Recovery Rebate Credit refundable?

The credit is refundable. A refundable credit is a credit that will reduce your tax and may add to your refund even if you don't have any tax at all. So if your credit is more than the amount of your tax, you can get the excess amount in your refund.

For example, if your tax calculation comes out to $1,500 and you have a refundable credit of $2,000, your tax would be reduced to zero and you would receive the extra $500 as a refund.

Can the Recovery Rebate Credit be garnished?

The credit can be garnished. Those who owe back taxes or other debts (such as unpaid child support) may have their credit reduced to pay these fees.

If a person passed away in 2020, can they still claim the Recovery Rebate Credit?

As long as the correct preparer of the taxes (surviving spouse or representative) files the deceased's final tax return, the Recover Rebate Credit can be received.

How do I file for the Recovery Rebate Credit on FreeTaxUSA's website?

First, create or login to your FreeTaxUSA account. Then, when you get to the Deductions/Credits section of the federal tax return, we'll ask some questions including if you received the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) or stimulus checks, and how much you received. We'll guide you through this section, help calculate the estimated credit, and help you file for the Recovery Rebate Credit as you file for your 2020 tax return.

What if I don't receive the third round of Economic Impact (Stimulus) Payment?

If you don't receive EIP3 or you are entitled to a larger amount than the IRS sent you may qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit next year when you file your 2021 tax return.

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