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Stimulus check 'plus-up' payment amount — what to expect

stimulus check plus-up payment
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If stimulus check money you're entitled to hasn't reached your bank account, you may be about to get a little more in the form of a “plus-up” payment. But the IRS is warning that some people may not get as much as they expect. 

The IRS has already started to send out the supplemental payments now that it’s processing 2020 tax returns. But even if you are entitled to a plus-up payment, you shouldn't necessarily expect a whole new $1,400 check in the mail, due to the way the payments are calculated.

The complication stems from the fact the first two stimulus check payments were based on the 2019 tax returns. As a result, if your situation changed during the 2020 tax year — for instance you had a child or your income dropped — the IRS couldn't take that into consideration until now.

Based on a new tax-relevant situation, some people will be owed extra funds on top of what they have already received, and the IRS says there are two ways in which you can apply to claim it:

How to apply for stimulus check 'plus-up' payment

  • Claim a correction on the 2020 tax return through the “Recovery Rebate Credit. You can find that on Line 30 of Form 1040 for the first two stimulus payments. Any money you’re owed will then be added to your tax refund. 
  • If you’ve already had your third stimulus check, but situational changes on your 2020 tax return mean you should be eligible for more, the IRS will automatically adjust your payment after you file your taxes. You’ll then receive the additional “plus-up” check with everything else you qualify for. 

People who qualify for a plus-up payment include those who earned a lot less in 2020 than 2019, couples who married in 2020, taxpayers who have had kids and can claim extra dependents, and non-tax filers who also have newly eligible dependents.

But all of this hinges on you submitting a tax return for 2020. While some people, for instance those in low-income households, wouldn’t normally have to do this, the IRS won’t be sending out any plus-up checks if you don’t.

The IRS has also warned that getting an adjustment on your tax return could be complicated by dependents, particularly since teen dependents over 17 weren’t eligible for the first two checks. So, if you received the extra $500 or $600 as part of the first two stimulus payments, but your child was already 17 on January 1 2020, you won't have been eligible for those first payments and won't therefore be entitled to an adjustment.

As we said, it's complicated, and working out whether you're actually eligible for anything will require some extra effort. Be sure to call the IRS phone number and check out our guide to the stimulus check calculator to find out more about your payments and eligibility.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.