If you’re hoping that 2022 will bring another round of stimulus checks, you’ll almost certainly be disappointed. The economy is booming. Inflation is soaring. That means Congress isn’t exactly itching to dole out more free money.
But you may still have stimulus cash coming for you when you file your 2021 tax return. Here’s why: The $1,400 stimulus checks that went out in spring 2021 were an advance on a temporary 2021 tax credit. But because of the urgency of the situation, the IRS was directed to get us that money ASAP. So it used 2020 tax returns to process payments, or 2019 returns for people whose 2020 returns had yet to be processed.
That means if your tax situation changed through the course of the year, you could get stimulus money if your 2021 return shows that you’re eligible.
6 Reasons You Could Get Stimulus Money With Your 2021 Refund
If one or more of these scenarios apply, you might get more coronavirus money by submitting a tax return. And relax: You won’t owe more at tax time or get a smaller refund as the result of receiving a check.
1. You’ve Never Filed a Tax Return
If you’ve never filed taxes, submitting a tax return will likely unlock $1,400 for you, plus any dependents. Note that this will only apply if you didn’t use the non-filer tool to qualify for any of the three rounds of stimulus checks.
You can submit a tax return even if you aren’t required to do so. There are plenty of free tax filing options you can choose from. If you didn’t have earned income for the year, you can simply enter $0 for your income. Some e-filing programs won’t allow you to report $0 of income, though. If that’s the case, enter $1 instead.
2. You’re No Longer Claimed as a Dependent
Attention, Class of 2021: If your parents or someone else claimed you as a dependent in 2020 but they didn’t in 2021, you could get a $1,400 credit provided that you file a tax return.
Generally, you can be claimed as a dependent if you’re under 19, or you’re under 24 and a student, if your parents provide at least half of your support.
3. You Had a Child in 2021
Since 2020 and 2019 tax returns were used to process the third round of stimulus checks, if you had a child in 2021, you didn’t receive a $1,400 stimulus payment on their behalf. The same goes for if you adopted a child in 2021.
The parents of any bundle of joy who arrived in 2021 will be eligible for a $1,400 recovery rebate credit. They’ll also be eligible for the 2021 expanded child tax credits, which are up to $3,600 for children younger than 6, and $3,000 for kids ages 6 to 17.
4. Your Child Was Born in 2020, but the IRS Used Your 2019 Return
If you had a child in 2020 and didn’t file your 2020 return early on in last year’s tax season, the IRS probably processed your third stimulus check using your 2019 return. If you didn’t receive $1,400 for your child, you should get the stimulus credit when your 2021 return is processed.
5. Your Income Dropped in 2021
If your income dropped in 2021, you could be eligible for stimulus money. That’s because the third round of payments was based on 2020 or 2019 income.
Single filers with incomes below $75,000 and married couples with incomes less than $150,000 were eligible for the full stimulus payment. Those earning above these amounts were eligible for a phased-out payment. But singles earning more than $80,000 and married couples earning more than $160,000 weren’t eligible for the third round of stimulus payments at all.
If you didn’t qualify for the third round based on your 2020 or 2019 income, you could receive stimulus money if your income dropped below these thresholds in 2021.
6. You Increased Your Retirement Contributions in 2021
Suppose you’re a single filer who earned $80,000 in 2020 and your income stayed the same in 2021. You would have gotten a $950 coronavirus check in the first round, because payments were reduced by 5 cents for every $1 of income over $75,000 if you’re single. In the second round, you’d get $350.
But if you reduced your 2021 taxable income to $75,000 by contributing an extra $5,000 to your 401(k) or traditional IRA (sorry, a Roth IRA won’t work), you’d get the additional $250 coronavirus payment from both rounds, so $500 total.
When Are Taxes Due?
Your 2021 tax return is due Monday, April 18, 2022. Be sure to file your taxes by the deadline or request an extension to avoid penalties.
It’s also essential to file online if possible. The IRS has a huge backlog of unprocessed paper returns. Typically, it takes 21 days or less for the IRS to issue a refund when you file online. But if you file by mail, your stimulus check and any other refund you qualify for could be delayed for months.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected] or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.