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Stimulus Payment

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed May 6, 2020

What is an economic impact or “stimulus” payment?

The government is sending “stimulus” payments to most taxpayers and their families because the Coronavirus has caused so many people to lose their income. These payments are part of the CARES Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that Congress just passed.  People also call these payments, “Economic Impact” or “Recovery” payments. These are all different names for the same payment.

See the IRS Economic Payment Information Center  for the latest updates.

Do I qualify for a payment?

You qualify for the stimulus payments if:

  • You filed a tax return for 2019 or 2018. You can still file your 2019 tax return. Or, 
  • You receive SSI, Social Security or railroad retiree benefits and are not required to file a tax return. Or
  • You are low income and you file the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info online on the IRS website.


  1. You must have a social security number.
  2. You cannot be a dependent on someone else’s tax form, and
  3. Your income must be below the limits for your filing status. See How much will I get?

Does someone who is incarcerated qualify for the Payment?

No. A Payment made to someone who is incarcerated should be returned to the IRS. If the IRS sent a payment to a couple who file their taxes jointly, and only one spouse is incarcerated, you only need to return the portion of the Payment made to the incarcerated spouse. As long as your shared adjusted gross income is $150,000 or less, this amount is $1,200.

How much will I get?

If you qualify, your payment will be:

  • $1,200 if you file taxes as an individual and your “adjusted gross income” (AGI) is $75,000 or less. Find your AGI on line 7 of your 2018 1040 income tax form, or line 8 of your 2019 1040 tax form.
  • $1,200 if you file taxes as head of household and your “adjusted gross income” (AGI) is $112,500, or less.
  • $2,400 if you file taxes jointly as a married couple and your  adjusted gross income is $150,000 or less. .

If your income is higher you will get a lower payment or no payment. See the IRS information for more details.

What about money for my children?

You also get $500 for each dependent, “qualifying child” 16 or under. The same rules used for the Child Tax Credit decide who is a qualifying child for the payment.

The $500 payments for children are based on the number of children you reported on your last tax form for 2018 or 2019. 

If you have a dependent child who is age 17 or over, you will not get the extra $500 for them. 

Try the Washington Post’s Stimulus Payment Calculator to see how much you might get.

If your parents can claim you as a dependent on their tax return, you do not qualify for a stimulus payment.

Is the stimulus payment “taxable income”?

No it is not.

Does the stimulus payment count as income or assets for my public benefits?

The stimulus payment will not count as income for MassHealth, Medicare, SSI, TAFDC, SNAP, federal housing or any other benefit funded by the federal government.

The payment will not count as an asset for 12 months for MassHealth, Medicare, SSI, TAFDC, SNAP, federal housing or any other benefit funded by the federal government. If you still have money left over after 12 months, it might count then.

Benefit programs funded only by Massachusetts have not announced their rules for the stimulus payment.  We will update this information when we learn more.

Do I need to have a social security number to get a payment?

Yes. If you are married filing jointly, your spouse must also have a SSN. Also, any children you claim as dependents for the recovery payment must have a social security number. An individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) is not enough.

There are two exceptions:

  • an adopted child can have an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) instead of a Social Security number. 
  • for married members of the U.S. armed forces, only one spouse needs to have a Social Security number.

Will the IRS call me to ask me any questions after I file my taxes or fill out the online form?

No! The IRS will not call you to ask for any of your personal information or your bank account. Do not give this information out to anyone who calls you. This is a scam.

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