Can I get a stimulus payment because my income changed?


Q. I took money out of my 401(k) both in 2018 and 2019 for home repairs, to pay off cars and lower my debt. That, plus our incomes, put us at over $210,000 for both years. I went on disability last May and now I’m receiving Social Security disability. Now our total income is $56,000 a year. We didn’t get the stimulus payments because of the higher income in those years. Is there anything I can do?
— Needing the money

A. You have several options, but they won’t help until the 2020 tax year is over.

First, this round of stimulus was based on your income as shown on your 2019 return, and if that wasn’t available, the IRS used your 2018 return.

If your 2020 income is lower than in 2019 so that you would have qualified for a stimulus payment, or if the stimulus check you received is less than you would have received based on your 2020 income, you will be able to apply for the difference or for the full amount with your 2020 tax return you file in 2021, said Gerard Papetti, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant with U.S. Financial Services in Fairfield.

That’s because the stimulus payments are actually an advance on a credit you can take on your 2020 return.

Individuals who ultimately qualify for more money than they receive this year — a person whose income drops from $100,000 to $70,000, for example — would receive the rest through a larger tax refund or smaller tax payment in early 2021, Papetti said.

But, he said, for those who ultimately qualify for less money than they received this year — a person whose income rises from $70,000 to $100,000 — may keep the advance payment and will not have to pay it back.

“If you are someone whose 2019 or 2018 income — the most recent return the IRS has — and family information provides you a more generous payment under the program than your 2020 income and family information end up providing, you will not need to repay any of the credit you receive and it will not be deducted from your potential future return,” Papetti said.

Based on the information you shared, although you are not eligible to receive a stimulus payment based on your 2019 income, you will be able to take an additional credit of up to $2,400 if you’re married filing jointly for the 2020 return you file in 2021.

So eventually, you will get the money.

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This story was originally published on July 17, 2020. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.