IRS sends out the first round of relief checks on Saturday

The stimulus bailout of up to $1,200 per person will go to everyone with income below $99,000 a year last year, or $198,000 for a married couple, and to some single parents earning up to $136,500. Parents who are eligible will get $500 for each of their children.

The source of your income is irrelevant, meaning social security recipients are eligible too.

How do I work out whether I am eligible?

First you need to find whether your adjusted gross income (AGI) was under the $99,000 adjusted gross income limit, or the $198,000 if you file as a married couple.

That is not the amount on your paycheck but your total income minus some permitted tax deductions including student loan interest payments – and your AGI can be found on your 2018 or 2019 tax return.

You also have to be a citizen or permanent resident, meaning workers on visas and undocumented – or illegal – aliens will not get cash despite having paid taxes.

How much will I get if I am a single filer?

If your adjusted gross income was under $75,000, you will get $1,200. 

For every $100 of adjusted gross income over $75,000 you will lose $5 from the check or deposit. So if your AGI was $85,000, you will get a check of $700. 

I’m a single parent – how am I affected?

If you file as head of household as many single parents do, the AGI limits are higher. You will get a $1,200 check if your AGI is under $112,500 and the upper limit for a payment is $136,500. All eligible parents receive $500 extra checks per child under 17.

What about married couples?

The limits for married couples to get payments is simply double that for single filers. So if your joint AGI is under $150,000 you get a full payment of $2,400. Payments taper down and no couple with an AGI above $198,000 get a payment. Parents get $500 per child. 

How will I get paid – and when?

That depends on how you – or your tax filer – filed your tax return in 2019 or 2018. If you gave your bank account details for your refund to be directly deposited, your payment will come directly and could come as early as Wednesday. 

The same applies if you receive Social Security retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits – your payment will go direct into your bank account. That also applies to people who receive payments from the Railroad Retirement and Survivor Benefits scheme.  

But if you opted for a check from the IRS, you will get your bailout payment by check. It will take the IRS 20 weeks to print the full number of checks it is anticipating sending out.

The IRS says it is planning to produce a website tool to enter your bank information to cut the number of people who need checks – but that has still to go into action

I didn’t file a tax return and I’m not on Social Security. Will I miss out?

People with incomes below $12,200 – $24,400 for couples – do not have to file federal tax returns but they are eligible. However you need to sign up at the IRS website’s special section to get the payment.

What if I don’t have a bank? 

The government has still to specify any help for people without banks to cash their checks without paying fees but there have been calls for it to ask big banks to do so. 

I earned more than the limit in 2019 and 2018 but now I’ve lost my job. Will I get a payment?

No. The checks are based on what people earned in the last tax return which is on file. So many people who lost jobs paying above the limit will get no help from the scheme. It is possible that the IRS comes up with a way to issue payments to such people in the future.