Tax Day is not April 15, as usual, this year.
Congress delayed the annual tax filing deadline from April 15th to July 15th to give American families extra time during this novel coronavirus pandemic to get their financial house in order.
However, this April 15, we can expect the stimulus checks Congress approved for American families (as part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act) to begin hitting bank accounts.
This economic aid is meant to help families who have lost their incomes because of mandatory shelter-in-place orders and closures of their workplaces due to the novel coronavirus. Most middle and low-income families can expect to receive this one-time cash infusion over the coming weeks and months.
Last week 6.6 million workers filed for unemployment benefits according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 17 million Americans have filed jobless claims over the past three weeks. For those workers who were laid off or furloughed for no fault of their own, this money will come in handy to pay the rent or mortgage and pay bills.
Here are 5 important things you should know about the stimulus checks:
- Not everyone will receive a stimulus check. If you are living in the U.S. illegally or are claimed by someone else as a dependent (such as a child or student) you will not get a payment. (Source: IRS)
- You don’t have to pay taxes on the stimulus check. The payments are not taxable income; they are structured as refundable tax credits. (Source: Tax Foundation)
- Some middle-class families will receive a stimulus check, but not all. If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is up to $75,000 as an individual or $112,500 as a head of household you will receive $1,200 and married couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $2,400. For those earning $75,000 to $99,000 as an individual, 112,500 to $136,500 as head of household, or $150,000 to $198,000 as a married couple you will receive a reduced payment. Families receive an additional $500 for each child in their household. (Source: IRS)
- If you have not filed a tax return yet, you will still get a stimulus check. The IRS will calculate your payment based on your 2018 AGI and send your payment in advance of your tax return. If after you file your return, your 2019 AGI is less than it was in 2018 you will be eligible to get the difference of that credit. However, if your AGI is greater than it was in 2018, you will not have to pay back the stimulus credit. (Source: Tax Foundation)
- You probably don’t have to do anything to receive the stimulus check. If you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and the IRS has your bank information, they will send the payment there via direct deposit. If the IRS does not have your bank info or you typically do not file a tax return, you will need to go to the IRS to enter your bank information to get your payment direct deposited. Otherwise, you will have to wait to receive a check in the mail in coming weeks and months. (Source: IRS)
A stimulus check is not a longterm solution
Even as these payments have started leaving the Treasury, there are already discussions in Washington about the next round of stimulus checks.
Ideally, stimulus aid should be temporary and targeted to those who need it, but Congress decided not to limit the “economic impact payments” only to those who are unable to be work because of COVID-19.
With the expansion of unemployment benefits that were also included in the CARES Act, Americans are getting the aid they need in various forms. Private philanthropy and charity are also doing their part.
Another stimulus check would be a bandaid measure over the deeper issue: the economy is closed for business.
Currently, 95 percent of Americans are under some sort of stay at home order. For those who are able to work from home or are still getting paid, another stimulus check is not a priority. For those workers who cannot work from home and whose workplaces are shuttered, we need more than a temporary solution.
It is critical that policymakers at all levels of government start making plans to reopen the economy or their regions, in a way that does not trigger a resurgence of COVID-19. When stores, bars, and restaurants know when they can reopen, even with social distancing restrictions in place, they can think about bringing back their workforce.
Americans do not want to live on government checks indefinitely, they want to work. Work is essential to self-sufficiency, independence, and future planning. It’s only when we start to reopen our nation responsibly that American workers can be gainfully employed and families can get back on their feet.