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Published: Mar 24, 2022 8 min read
Stimulus Check On Top Of 1040 Form
Money; Getty Images

You're not alone if you're dreading filing your taxes this year. But here's something that could entice you to pull out all that paperwork: The government may owe you more stimulus money.

Last year, the IRS sent out more than 175 million third-round stimulus payments totaling over $400 billion to help people contend with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In January, the IRS announced that it had officially issued all the third stimulus checks it was going to.

But if you didn't receive a check and think you're due one, or you did but received less than the full amount, don't fear. There's still a way to claim that money.

The third Economic Impact Payment — aka EIP3, aka the third stimulus check — was an advance payment of the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit. That means if the IRS owes you more stimulus money, you can claim the credit when you file your taxes this year. Because it's fully refundable, the credit will either lower the amount of money you owe Uncle Sam or increase the size of your tax refund.

Here's everything you need to know about claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit.

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Who qualifies for more stimulus money?

When the IRS sent out all those checks last year, it used information from your 2020 or 2019 tax return to determine whether you qualified and for how much. The eligibility requirements for the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit are the same as they were for the third stimulus check, but they're now based on your 2021 tax data.

This matters because if you didn't initially qualify for the full third stimulus check — and your circumstances changed in 2021 — you may be eligible for more money. For the most part, it comes down to whether your adjusted gross income (AGI) dropped or if you added a new dependent to your family.

You probably qualify for more stimulus money if...

Your income dropped in 2021

If you earned more than $80,000 as a single filer, more than $160,000 as joint filers, or more than $120,000 as a head of household in recent tax years, but less than that amount in 2021, you may now qualify for as much as $1,400 per person.

You may be eligible for a partial payment if you earned between $75,000 and $80,000 in 2020 as a single filer, between $150,000 and $160,000 jointly, or between $112,500 and $120,000 as a household filer in 2020 but your income fell below those thresholds in 2021. (That's why the government sent out plus-up payments last year.)

You gained a dependent in 2021

If your family welcomed a child last year, you can claim them as a dependent and receive up to $1,400 for that child. (We won't get into it here, but you're also probably eligible for the 2021 child tax credit, which is worth a maximum of $3,600 for kids under 5.)

An important distinction with the third stimulus check compared to the first two is that you can claim it if you have adult dependents, says Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant and tax expert with TurboTax. Visit the IRS website to determine who you can claim as a dependent.

You were no longer a dependent in 2021

On the flip side, if you were claimed as someone else's dependent on their 2019 or 2020 tax returns, but you aren't claimed a dependent on their 2021 tax return, you may now be eligible for your own Recovery Rebate Credit. College students, for example, who worked part-time or side gigs and earned at least $12,550 should file a return — and if their parents didn't claim them as dependents, they may be eligible for the third stimulus check in the form of the credit, Greene-Lewis says.

In general, you're eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit if you were a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien, you have a valid Social Security number, and you were not a dependent of another taxpayer in 2021.

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How to determine the size of your third stimulus check

To determine how much money you may get, start with the base amount of $1,400 if you're single or $2,800 if you're joint filers. Then add on $1,400 for any dependents.

Your credit may be reduced depending on your AGI. The amount is reduced if your AGI is more than $150,000 if you're married filing jointly, more than $112,500 if you're head of household, and more than $75,000 if you're a single filer. You'll receive no credit if your AGI exceeds $160,000, $120,000 or $80,000, respectively.

The IRS will also decrease your payout by the amount of your third stimulus check and any plus-up payments you got. Can't remember the size? Check your mailbox. The government sent out Notice 1444-C and Letter 6475 with information about the total amount of your third stimulus check.

If you received a joint payment with a spouse, you each got your own letter showing half the total amount. If you can't find the letter, you can visit your online IRS account and find details about your stimulus checks under the under the “Tax Records” section.

Remember: You have to put the right amount on your tax form if you want to get that extra money, especially given the recent turmoil at the IRS.

"If you don't put any at all that you received or you put the incorrect amount, it's going to hold up processing of your return" Greene-Lewis says.

How to claim missing stimulus check money on your taxes

Now's the time to claim all the money you're owed if you haven't received it already. Before you sit down to file your taxes (ideally, before the April deadline) and claim the credit, make sure you know the total amount you received in the third EIP and any plus-up payments for a smooth process.

Once you've determined how much money you can claim — which you can do via the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet in the 2021 Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR instructions — report it on line 30 of your Form 1040.

If you're using a tax software program like TurboTax or H&R Block, you'll be prompted to determine if you're eligible for the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit and to claim it if so.

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