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Stimulus check: Here's how you can get more money

A stimulus check overlaid by a dollar bill and a fragment of an American flag.
(Image credit: Rohane Hamilton/Shutterstock)

If you didn't receive the full amount of money you were eligible for with stimulus check 1 or 2, you may be able to get a credit on your 2020 taxes to make up the difference. 

The IRS used data from 2019 and 2018 to determine eligibility for the $1,200 and $600 payments sent out last year — even as many individuals' and families' financial situations shifted drastically in 2020. 

The Recovery Rebate Credit allows taxpayers who made less money in 2020 than they did in previous years to claim funds that they would have received had their first two stimulus checks been calculated using their 2020 return. 

This means that if you didn't get a full payment for either you or your dependents with stimulus checks 1 or 2, you may be able to use this credit as long as you complete your 2020 tax return by May 17 (the adjusted deadline for most filers). 

How to claim your Recovery Rebate Credit

To get your tax credit, you'll need to know exactly how much money you received with stimulus checks 1 and 2. The IRS sent out letters (Notices 1444 and 1444-B) to qualifying individuals showing the amount of each payment, but if you don't have those notices handy, you can also find the information by logging in at irs.gov/account

Next, you'll need to fill out a worksheet to determine whether you qualify for the credit and how much you can claim. This amount goes on Line 30 of your Form 1040 or 1040-SR. 

If you are eligible for the credit, it will be sent as a tax refund (or applied toward taxes you owe). According to the IRS, the fastest way to get your funds is to file your return electronically and set up direct deposit into a bank account. 

However, the IRS may also adjust the credit you claim, meaning you may not get the exact amount you expect. There are a few reasons for this correction: 

  • Someone else claimed you as a dependent.
  • You didn't provide a valid Social Security number.
  • Your qualifying child was over 17 on Jan. 1, 2020.
  • You calculated your credit incorrectly. 

Finally, if you've already filed your 2020 taxes and didn't take the Recovery Rebate Credit (but believe you're eligible), you can file an amended return using Form 1040-X. The IRS will not automatically give you a credit if you do not claim it.

Emily Long

Emily Long is a Utah-based freelance writer who covers consumer technology, privacy and personal finance for Tom's Guide. She has been reporting and writing for nearly 10 years, and her work has appeared in Wirecutter, Lifehacker, NBC BETTER and CN Traveler, among others. When she's not working, you can find her trail running, teaching and practicing yoga, or studying for grad school — all fueled by coffee, obviously.