The IRS has posted information on their website giving various scenarios that explain why the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) that was received may be different than the amount that was expected.
2019 tax return not yet filed, or IRS has not finished processing the 2019 return. Payments are automatic for eligible people who filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019. Typically, the IRS uses information from the 2019 tax return to calculate the Economic Impact Payment. Instead, the IRS will use the 2018 return if the taxpayer has not yet filed for 2019. If a taxpayer has already filed for 2019, the IRS will still use the 2018 return if the IRS has not finished processing the 2019 return. The IRS accepting a tax return electronically is different than completing processing. Any issues with the 2019 return mean the IRS would have used the 2018 return to calculate the Economic Impact Payment.
If the IRS used the 2018 return, various life changes in 2019 would not be reflected in the payment. These may include higher or lower income or birth or adoption of a child. In many cases, however, these taxpayers may be able to claim an additional amount on the 2020 tax return when it is filed in 2021. This could include up to an additional $500 for each qualifying child not reflected in their Economic Impact Payment.
Claimed dependents are not eligible for an additional $500 payment. Only children eligible for the Child Tax Credit qualify for the additional payment of up to $500 per child. To claim the Child Tax Credit, the taxpayer generally must be related to the child, live with them more than half the year and provide at least half of their support. Besides their own children, adopted children and foster children, eligible children can include the taxpayer’s younger siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews if they can be claimed as dependents. In addition, any qualifying child must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other qualifying resident alien. The child must also be under the age of 17 at the end of the year for the tax return on which the IRS bases the payment determination.
A qualifying child must have a valid Social Security Number (SSN) or an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN). A child with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is not eligible for an additional payment.
Parents who are not married to each other and do not file a joint return cannot both claim their qualifying child as a dependent. The parent who claimed the child on their 2019 return may have received an additional Economic Impact Payment for their qualifying child. When the parent who did not receive an additional payment files a 2020 tax return, they may be able to claim up to an additional $500 per-child amount on that return if they qualify to claim the child as their qualifying child for 2020.
Dependents are college students. Dependent college students do not qualify for an EIP, and even though their parents may claim them as dependents, they normally do not qualify for the additional $500 payment. For example, a 20-year-old full-time college student claimed as a dependent on his or her parent’s 2019 federal income tax return is not eligible for a $1,200 Economic Impact Payment. In addition, the student’s parents will not receive an additional $500 Economic Impact Payment because the student does not qualify as a child younger than 17. This scenario could also apply if the parent’s 2019 tax return hasn’t been processed yet by the IRS before the payments were calculated, and a college student was claimed on a 2018 tax return.
Furthermore, the parent cannot voluntarily relinquish claiming the student on their return for the purpose of allowing the student to file a return to receive an EIP. If the IRS determines the student is not financially independent of the parents, the student will not be eligible for an EIP.
However, if the student cannot be claimed as a dependent by his or her parents or anyone else for 2020 because they are financially independent, that student may be eligible to claim a $1,200 credit on his or her own 2020 tax return.
Claimed dependents are parents or relatives, age 17 or older. If a taxpayer claimed a parent or any other relative age 17 or older on his or her tax return, the dependent will not receive a $1,200 payment. In addition, the taxpayer will not receive an additional $500 payment because the parent or other relative is not a qualifying child under age 17.
However, if the parent or other relative cannot be claimed as a dependent on the taxpayer’s or anyone else’s return for 2020, the parent or relative may be eligible to individually claim a $1,200 credit on his or her 2020 tax return.
Past-due child support was deducted from the payment. The Economic Impact Payment is offset only by past-due child support. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send the taxpayer a notice if an offset occurs.
For taxpayers who are married filing jointly and filed an injured spouse claim with their 2019 tax return (or 2018 tax return if they haven’t filed the 2019 tax return), half of the total payment will be sent to each spouse. Only the payment of the spouse who owes past-due child support should be offset.
The IRS is aware that a portion of the payment sent to a spouse who filed an injured spouse claim with his or her 2019 tax return (or 2018 tax return if no 2019 tax return has been filed) may have been offset by the injured spouse’s past-due child support. The IRS is working with the Bureau of Fiscal Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. If an injured spouse claim was filed with the return and the taxpayer is impacted by this issue, the taxpayer does not need to take any action. The injured spouse will receive their unpaid half of the total payment when the issue is resolved.
Garnishments by creditors reduced the payment amount. Federal tax refunds, including the Economic Impact Payment, are not protected from garnishment by creditors by federal law once the proceeds are deposited into a taxpayer’s bank account.
What if the amount of the Economic Impact Payment is incorrect? In many instances, eligible taxpayers who received a smaller-than-expected Economic Impact Payment (EIP) may qualify to receive an additional amount when they file their 2020 federal income tax return. EIPs are technically an advance payment of a new temporary tax credit that eligible taxpayers can claim on their 2020 return. Everyone should keep for their records the letter they receive by mail within a few weeks after their payment is issued.
When taxpayers file their 2020 tax return, they can claim additional credits if they are eligible for them. The EIP will not reduce a taxpayer’s refund or increase the amount they owe on the 2020 tax return. It is also not taxable on the 2020 return.