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Third stimulus check: Read this before your file your 2020 tax return

Updated Feb 11th, 2021 4:50PM EST
Stimulus checks update
Image: Ken Cedeno/Pool via CNP

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  • $1,400 stimulus checks should start going out within the next few weeks, but the amount you receive will likely be based on your most recent tax return.
  • There are a number of factors that determine how much the IRS deposits in your account, so if you will receive less money with your 2020 tax return, you might want to wait before you file.
  • The IRS will accept and process 2020 tax returns from February 12th through April 15th.

In the coming weeks, Congress will likely pass Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, one which will include a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000. Once the bill is signed into law, payments should begin going out quickly, but depending on your financial situation over the last year, you’ll need to decide whether to file your taxes right away or wait for the bill to pass first.

As Kiplinger explains, the IRS is likely to use your most recent tax return to decide how big your next stimulus check will be. Therefore, the timing of when you decide to file your taxes this year could change the amount of money you receive. The IRS will start accepting 2020 federal tax returns on February 12th, and you have until April 15th to file them (barring another extension), but take stock of your circumstances before you file.

According to Kiplinger, you should file your 2020 taxes early if your income was lower than in 2019, if you had a child in 2020, if you got married in 2020 (if your incomes combined come in below the $150,000 threshold), or if you could be claimed as a dependent on someone’s 2019 tax return, but not their 2020 tax return.

Meanwhile, you might want to wait to file your 2020 taxes until the stimulus checks start going out if your income was higher in 2020, if you had a death in the family in 2020, if you got divorced in 2020 (and your individual income takes you over the $75,000 threshold), or if you can’t claim your child as a dependent any longer.

It’s a lot to consider, but Kiplinger has illustrative examples on its website that should help guide you through each situation that applies to you and your family. Millions of Americans are unemployed and millions more are struggling as we slowly inch our way out of this pandemic, and it’s important that those who need this relief the most are getting as much as they can out of it. At the moment, it looks like the earliest the IRS would begin processing the new round of stimulus checks will be two weeks into March, but if your 2020 tax return can net you a bigger stimulus check, do not delay — if you have all of the paperwork you need to file taxes this weekend, get it done and cross your fingers that the IRS uses that information when deciding how much money to deposit in your bank account.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.