Claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit (Stimulus Check Payment) in Your 2020 Tax Return in 2021

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This article was last updated on March 2

The IRS has now provided instructions to help people claim missing stimulus check for themselves and their dependents. If you haven’t got your missing stimulus payment (economic impact payment) for yourself or your dependents by the end of January 2020, the IRS is recommending claiming the payments as recovery rebate credits on your 2020 tax return (using Form 1040 or 1040-SR). This is your best option if you want to get the payment anytime soon. Further you can update dependent information and payment details to ensure missing payments and future stimulus (and Biden has already promised a third stimulus) are paid correctly.

Note: You only make an entry on Line 30 of your 1040 tax return form if you are actually claiming the recovery rebate credit for missing or partial stimulus payments for yourself or for any eligible child dependents. Otherwise, you leave it blank. If you already got the full amount of stimulus payments then there is no point in trying to claim this again. It will be rejected and could in fact delay your return.

Claiming your missing Stimulus Check payments as a 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit

The IRS has provided a recovery rebate worksheet to help you figure how much of your missing stimulus payments you can claim in your 2020 tax return. While the recovery rebate worksheet may look complicated its not that bad as most of the questions are around trying to determine your eligibility to ensure you get your missing stimulus payments. If you already got the two stimulus check payments prior to filing your tax return then you don’t need to complete this form. Alternatively you can use tax software from leading providers like Turbo Tax or Tax Act, to file for the recovery rebate credit to get your missing stimulus payments.

First its important to understand that stimulus checks, also known as Economic Impact Payments (EIP), were actually an advance payment against your 2020 tax returns, which are normally filed in 2021. In tax terms the stimulus check is classified as recovery rebate credit. But there is one key difference between how these payments are treated when they were automatically paid in 2020 by the IRS versus claiming it via your tax return. The stimulus checks paid in 2020 were based on your 2018 or 2019 tax year information. The recovery rebate credit instead is based on 2020 tax year information. This is a big deal because thousands more may actually qualify for the stimulus payment via a recovery rebate credit based on lower 2020 incomes due to pandemic job losses or income reductions.

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Recovery Rebate Credit to Get Missing Stimulus Payments

The first round of stimulus checks were initially sent out beginning in April 2020 but due to several processing issues and allowing non-filers to update details it took several months to get payments out. Some people reporting getting payments as late as December 2020 and many are still waiting. The second stimulus check (economic impact payment – EIP 2) was sent out from late December 2020 until January 15th, 2021 for initial processing. Checks, debit card and known exception payments (e.g. due to incorrect bank accounts) will likely be paid later in January 2020 ahead of IRS processing 2020 tax returns.

If you received one or both of these stimulus check/economic impact payments you would have also received IRS Notice 1444 and/or Notice 1444-B, which would show how much you were paid. Notice 1444-B, outlining your second stimulus check (EIP 2) payment may take several weeks to receive as those payments were recently made.

You may be able to claim the recovery rebate credit only if your stimulus check/economic impact payments are less than your credit. This would only happen if you were eligible for payment but didn’t get one or both payments for yourself or your dependents. You can also claim this rebate if your payment was less than what you expected. Note the maximum payment you receive cannot exceed maximum of $1200/$2400 (singles/couple) for the first stimulus payment or $600/$1200 for the second stimulus check.

Missing Dependent Stimulus Check Payments

One of the most common issue with missing stimulus payments were related to the $500 and $600 dependent payments. I have received over 1000 comments and this video highlighted the many issues around the dependent stimulus payments. Many got their adult stimulus payment but never received their first and/or second payment. Note this excludes babies born this year who would not have been on 2019 tax returns. Instead you have to claim children born after you filed your 2019 return (or born in 2020) to get a potential $1,100 recovery rebate credit.

Exceptions to Note

There are some other exceptions to note when claiming the recovery rebate via your 2020 tax return:

  • If someone else claimed your dependent in their tax return (e.g. an ex-spouse) you cannot claim them as well and get an extra payment unless you can prove that they were incorrectly claimed on someone else’s return.
  • If your stimulus check eligibility was based on a joint return, you and your spouse are each treated as having received half the payment that was issued.
  • If only one of you has a valid social security number, and neither you nor your spouse was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during 2020, your credit amount will be limited

Per the 1040 form instructions, you are eligible to claim the recovery rebate credit if in 2020 you were a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien, weren’t a dependent of another taxpayer, and have a valid social security number. You can also see more details and information on the recovery rebate credit at IRS.gov/RRC.

You’ll need to file the standard 1040 federal tax return form, or the 1040-SR tax return for people 65 or older, to get your missing stimulus money in the form of a tax credit that will either lower the amount of tax you owe or increase the size of your refund. 

Can Child Support or Other Offsets be Deducted from my Recovery Rebate (Stimulus Check Claim)?

The answer is Yes. A new provision in the CAA COVID-19 relief bill allows the IRS to withhold/garnish funds from the RRC for items like child support or other federal offsets. This has caught many people claiming their missing or partial stimulus check, which was not subject to this claw back when first paid via the IRS during the normal processing cycle. So even if you owed back taxes or some other type of government debt, you still got the full stimulus check when originally paid.

Note that the first stimulus payment was a little murky around offsets due to some unclear provisions in the CARES act. Many had their dependent payment offset due to injured spouse claims. See the following summary from a reader who left the comment below:

The problem is that the Rebate Credit is like any other refundable tax credit and can be garnished/offset for debts owed (including child support) and is not protected from being offset like the payment would have been if received as a Stimulus payment. My whole family’s 1st payment was taken to pay my husband’s child support debt, even though I filed injured spouse and that was supposed to be the solution to get my half. As of March 1, 2021 I still don’t have my MUCH NEEDED part of the payment and after reviewing the form for the Recovery Rebate Credit, this new “solution” (that’s being widely pumped as the end-all solution to this problem) won’t help at all (because the offset money is considered received by the IRS, the Rebate Credit doesn’t apply, and if it did, the Rebate Credit (my share only) would be subject to be re-offset as part of our tax return and filing injured spouse would only possibly get me a portion of the half of the payment that was supposed to be all mine). The IRS phone number to call actually says (on their website) it’s hard to get through due to low staff and plenty paperwork to process so I don’t know what to suggest from here. This is where I’m stuck too, which is preventing me from accurately completing my family’s 2020 taxes too.

21 thoughts on “Claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit (Stimulus Check Payment) in Your 2020 Tax Return in 2021

  1. I am a non tax filer i to had my stimulus check taken for spouses child support. They said do nothin we know the errors its even on their website. Well a tax advocate in jan told me file recovery rebate and that will fix all lies they denied my recovery rebate so now what? How the heck do i get my money?

  2. This did not confirm what to do about babies born in 2020 to people whom do not file taxes like for people who are on ssi and disability! Where would I go to fix that issue? Anybody know?

    1. My daughter was born 2020. I filed my taxes and they only rebate stimulus one and two but not third. How can I get the third stimulus for my daughter? Please help

  3. How do I add my son to irs/gov so i can receive stimulus check for him ?

    1. There are some updates about Dependents rules, we’ll cover that topic soon. Stay updated.

  4. my husband received his $600 check in second round but i never did. i did the recovery rebate credit worksheet for the $600 due me. my question is do i need to send the worksheet in or is it just for my records?

  5. Well we received the first stimulus but had to claim the recovery rebate on our taxes. Because we have IRS debt they took the the second stimulus we were suppose to receive. Meanwhile we can’t pay our bills due to job loss because of Covid and 60.00 bucks to our name. I truly thought this was suppose to help people. I feel like the IRS does this on purpose if you have debt owed to them you don’t receive your stimulus check instead you have to claim the recovery rebate and then they just turn around and take it from you. Makes me so said, we are American Citizens that work hard and pay our taxes and this happens.

  6. My daughter did not receive any of her covid 19 relief payments. I call the IRS, phone no help.

  7. Hello I received the first stimulus for both me and my son. The second I only received for myself. I then got a letter from irs saying if I don’t receive my sons to call, so I do . That was no help at all. So I do a free tax file due to I receive ssi. Now that don’t give me the option to claim him on the stimulus part. It’s not even there. What am I supposed to do now???? Do I chalk it up or what??? Does this mean I won’t get for my son the 3rd round? Someone help please.

  8. Non filer here.. I recieved the first stimulus check for me and my dependents.. Second round only I got the 600 but my dependents which are my kids have not recieved theirs plus my child who is now 17 had a baby in 2020 how can I go about claiming the missing the funds.

    1. Filing a tax return is the fastest way. Or wait for the IRS to open up the non-filers tool.

  9. Me and my husband got our 600.00 a piece but we didn’t get our 3 kids second stimulus payment

  10. My 15 year old son and I are both on disability. We both recieved the first stimulus payments.
    But on the second round we did not receive the payment for my son? What do I need to do?

  11. Son did NOT get first stimulus check because of back child support,(understood) now filing his taxes he said….on form he was eligible for recovery rebate, he said he received 2ed stimulus but NOT first. How should he answer? Did 1st really go to back support, he stopped doing taxes not sure if correct on rebate.

    1. It is my understanding that the Recovery Rebate (form) asks what amount of each stimulus payment you received before offsets (like child support). So even though the IRS website might show a stimulus payment was received (direct deposited, mailed, etc.) this info. is before the money is taken for offsets. They’re (the IRS) considering the total amount they issued as being received, even if he never saw a penny of it because it was taken by child support. Also, the first stimulus was (and still is) allowed to be offset by child support, so if he owes that money, he’ll never get it back (if he doesn’t owe it, he needs to contact the agency listed on the offset notice to get that corrected). The second stimulus is a different story, as it wasn’t supposed to be offset by anything. But, for people who’s 2019 taxes were still not processed by the time the second stimulus was issued, may have missed the small payment window. These people can use the Recovery Rebate credit to get a stimulus payment issued. The problem is that the Rebate Credit is like any other refundable tax credit and can be garnished/offset for debts owed (including child support) and is not protected from being offset like the payment would have been if received as a Stimulus payment. My whole family’s 1st payment was taken to pay my husband’s child support debt, even though I filed injured spouse and that was supposed to be the solution to get my half. As of March 1, 2021 I still don’t have my MUCH NEEDED part of the payment and after reviewing the form for the Recovery Rebate Credit, this new “solution” (that’s being widely pumped as the end-all solution to this problem) won’t help at all (because the offset money is considered received by the IRS, the Rebate Credit doesn’t apply, and if it did, the Rebate Credit (my share only) would be subject to be re-offset as part of our tax return and filing injured spouse would only possibly get me a portion of the half of the payment that was supposed to be all mine). The IRS phone number to call actually says (on their website) it’s hard to get through due to low staff and plenty paperwork to process so I don’t know what to suggest from here. This is where I’m stuck too, which is preventing me from accurately completing my family’s 2020 taxes too.

  12. Mine, my daughter’s and my husband’s entire first stimulus ($2,900) was intercepted for HIS child support debt. I did file injured spouse in April 2020 (seperate from our 2019 tax year return which I filed in March of 2020). The IRS website shows all of this money being deposited to my bank account in April of 2020 (but none ever was). We got two notices (one to my husband only and one to both of us) stating ALL of our combined stimulus was being intercepted to pay his child support. About three weeks later, we got the letter from Trump saying we received the stimulus payment (that child support took). Now (Feb. 7, 2021), still no first stimulus received. I see the form above asks how much stimulus we were paid “before child support offset.” So obviously, they are counting the money child support took as money we “received,” and filing this form will NOT help injured spouses get their share of the stimulus that was never received, even though many sources are claiming that anyone who still didn’t receive all or part of either stimulus payment by this point should just file this form on their taxes so they’ll get the money owed to them. Since this form (and therefore receiving my missing money by claiming it this year on my 2020 year tax return) won’t work, HOW DO I ACTUALLY GET MY SHARE of the first stimulus payment?
    (As a side note, we got the second stimulus payment almost immediately (Jan. 4, 2021), direct deposited to the same bank account in which the IRS claims to have sent the first payment, so there’s nothing wrong with the bank or account and the IRS has all correct information (names, addresses, etc.), so none of these reasons are why I still haven’t received the first payment.)

    1. People who received the first stimulus payments didn’t have to contend with offsets unless they owed back child support. For the second round of stimulus payments, there were no offsets — even for child support. However, because of delays in processing returns from last year or other glitches, people who won’t get their stimulus payments until they file their 2020 return will be subject to offsets if they owe the IRS or other government entities or have past-due student loans.

  13. I am an American I have a child with my fiancee in Vietnam he has no social security number can he still get a stimulus check too if I claim him? Please help, thanks!

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