How to get a stimulus check from the US government, which could pay up to $1,200 if you qualify

Most people don't need to apply or sign up for anything to get a stimulus check.

Most people don’t need to apply or sign up for anything to get a stimulus check.
REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, into law on Friday.

The $2 trillion stimulus package, the largest emergency relief bill in American history, will direct one-time payments, or “recovery rebates,” of up to $1,200 to many Americans.

You do not have to sign up to receive a stimulus check. The process is automatic for most Americans who qualify.

Here’s how to get a stimulus check:

1. Have a Social Security number

To get a stimulus check, you need to have a Social Security number. Nonresident aliens, people without a Social Security number, and adult dependents are not eligible.

2. File a tax return for 2018 or 2019

The size of your stimulus check is based on the adjusted gross income listed on the latest tax return you filed, either this year’s tax return or 2018’s.

Americans whose adjusted gross income was less than $75,000 will receive the maximum amount: $1,200. Reduced payments are sent to single filers who earned between $75,000 and $99,000, or married filers who earned between $150,000 and $198,000. There’s also a $500 payment per child under age 17 for parents in the payment.

Business Insider’s Andy Kiersz created the following chart showing how much taxpayers will receive from the stimulus package based on filing status and income.

coronavirus stimulus checks by income v2

Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

The IRS will be sending automatic payments of $1,200 each to Social Security recipients and railroad retirees using the payment method for their regular benefits, whether direct deposit or a home address.

The agency previously said that some seniors and low-income Americans who don’t normally file tax returns would need to submit a simple tax return to provide filing status, number of dependents, and bank information to receive payments. This is no longer the case for those who receive tax forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099.

“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return do not need to take an action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an April 1 news release.

3. Check your direct-deposit information

The IRS will disburse the funds according to the direct-deposit information provided on the last tax return you filed or most recent Social Security or railroad retirement benefits statement.

It’s unclear which date the Treasury will use as a cutoff for processing these payments, but if you haven’t filed your 2019 tax return yet and want to ensure the IRS uses your latest income figure and that your stimulus check gets deposited in the right account, file as soon as possible.

Nicole Kaeding, the vice president of policy promotion and an economist at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, tweeted shortly after the relief bill passed in the Senate that about 60% of tax filers provided direct-deposit information on their returns last year.

4. Provide updated bank information to the IRS

The IRS is avoiding paper checks as much as possible. If you didn’t provide bank information on your last tax return, you’ll have the opportunity to do so online soon.

“In the coming weeks, Treasury plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail,” the IRS says.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a White House briefing that the agency hoped to get direct-deposit payments to people as soon as three weeks from the passage of the bill, or by mid-April. You don’t have to do anything but wait for the deposit to show up in your bank account.

This post was updated on April 2, 2020 to include new information from the IRS.