The IRS can adjust any stimulus check money you're owed when you file your 2020 tax return. Here's why


This year’s tax season has brought with it a new opportunity to collect any unpaid funds from previous rounds of federal stimulus checks.

But the amount you claim could be adjusted by the IRS, the agency said on Monday.

A new feature called a recovery rebate credit enables people to claim unpaid stimulus check money they may be missing.

To date, Congress has authorized three direct payments to Americans since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. That includes a first check of up to $1,200 per adult through the CARES Act that was passed in March 2020. That was followed by payments of up to $600 per person authorized in December, followed by new checks of up to $1,400 per person that the government is in the midst of deploying.

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The recovery rebate credit applies to the first two checks, which were sent as advance payments. If you received less than you were due, or no money at all, you may be eligible to claim the money once you file your tax return.

Of note, the IRS is also using information from this season’s returns to process the new $1,400 stimulus checks, or potentially top up those payments.

This year, individual tax filers generally have until May 17 to submit their 2020 tax returns.

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The recovery rebate credit can be claimed on line 30 of either Forms 1040 or 1040-SR.

But just because you entered one amount when you submitted your return does not necessarily mean that is the amount of money the government will return to you.

How much you receive back will be based on your overall 2020 tax return, as well as how much stimulus check money was previously sent to you.

If there’s a mistake, the IRS will calculate the correct amount due to you and continue handling the return. Admittedly, this could cause a “slight delay” in processing, the IRS said on Monday.

If this happens with your tax return, the IRS will send you a letter to notify you that the amount of your 2020 credit changed.

Your recovery rebate credit may be adjusted for several reasons, such as your being claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return. Other factors that would prompt a change include not having a valid Social Security number for employment, a child being 17 years of age or older as of Jan. 1, 2020, or for math errors related to adjusted gross income or previous stimulus payments.

The IRS provides further guidance on its website as to why recovery rebate credits may change when returns are processed. The tax agency urges filers to review that information before they contact them with questions.

If you have yet to file your tax return, you can still claim the recovery rebate credit either on the worksheet provided with paper forms or through tax preparation software, and by including the initial amounts you received from the payments, if applicable.

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