How one can test the standing


Because of the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 may be a tax year like no other. Here are answers to some of your top questions.


For those last-minute tax filers who were rushing to get their returns done, there’s good news: you’ve been given a one-month reprieve.

Tax Day 2021 has been pushed back to May 17 from April 15 without penalties and interest, giving Americans more time to file their returns as the IRS implements sweeping tax code changes from the latest COVID-19 relief package.

It’s a busy time. Many Americans have tons of questions about their stimulus checks, taxes and unemployment aid after the American Rescue Plan became law.

Many people are rushing to get their returns done so they can qualify for the latest round of stimulus aid, and they have questions like: Is it best to file now? Can I still file my return to qualify for a check? Do homeless Americans qualify for stimulus checks?

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Taxpayers are also grappling with questions on everything from unemployment waivers to child tax credits. And others want to know when they need to pay their state taxes, or if they face refund delays. 

Here’s what you need to know:

 (Photo: Getty Images)

Why was Tax Day extended to May 17?

The IRS pushed back the tax filing deadline by a month to Monday, May 17 instead of Thursday, April 15. The agency is grappling with staffing issues and outdated IT systems at a time when it’s also implementing sweeping tax code changes from the COVID-19 relief packages.

Last year, the 2019 tax deadline was extended three months until July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, because of the massive economic shutdowns that went into place to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Why wasn’t it pushed back to May 15? 

When Tax Day falls on a Saturday, it is customarily pushed to the following Monday.

How can I track my stimulus check?

You can use the IRS “Get My Payment” tool to find out when your next stimulus payment is expected to hit your bank account or be mailed.

The third round of Economic Impact Payments will be based on a taxpayer’s latest processed tax return from either 2020 or 2019. That includes anyone who used the IRS non-filers tool last year, or submitted a special simplified tax return.

— Kelly Tyko

Follow Kelly @KellyTyko

Do I still have a shot at qualifying for a check if I file now?

The situation is still very fluid.

If you didn’t qualify for the third round of stimulus checks based on 2019, but you do qualify based on 2020, the next best step is to file your 2020 taxes as soon as possible, tax experts say. 

“If the IRS processes it in time, they’ll use the most recent year to qualify taxpayers for the third round of economic stimulus payments,” says Meredith Tucker, tax principal at Kaufman Rossin, one of the largest CPA and advisory firms in the U.S. “But, if you are passed over for round three because your 2020 tax return hasn’t been submitted or processed in time, then you should be able to claim a credit on your 2021 taxes.”

Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, agrees. 

“Filing a tax return early is always a best practice and proven this year with the stimulus checks to those who have already filed,” says Steber. “As to filing now and still getting a check, the IRS has not detailed timing and impact, but it is certainly possible, especially if your tax situation changed from 2019 to 2020.”

If I don’t qualify for the third stimulus check based on my 2019 income but I do based on 2020, can I appeal to the IRS if they’ve already sent my check?

The IRS has until the end of the year to issue the stimulus payments for 2021 and will be reviewing returns for 2020. As the agency continues processing tax returns, additional payments will be made, tax experts say. 

If you haven’t filed your 2020 taxes, but believe you qualify based on your income levels you should file your 2020 taxes to ensure the IRS has the latest information. 

The IRS will continue to process stimulus payments weekly, including any new returns recently filed. If you still don’t receive a stimulus, the IRS said they will reconcile this sometime this year, according to Curtis Campbell, President of TaxAct, a tax preparation software.

“If the 2020 return hasn’t processed for some reason, the IRS will go off 2019 return information. Then, after tax season, if someone files their 2020 tax return and it is processed, the IRS will do a ‘true-up’ of the check between 2019 data and 2020 data,” says Campbell. 

For those who didn’t get a check based on their 2019 income, file a 2020 return and the IRS will recover their payment based on their updated return, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said Thursday during testimony on Capitol Hill.

For taxpayers or households who either did not qualify for a third stimulus check based on their 2019 income or got less than they were due, they should file a return with the IRS and the agency will do a redetermination and issue a supplemental payment called a “top-up” based on the household’s 2020 income, as long as they’re eligible, according to Andy Phillips, Director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block.

The IRS will do a redetermination the earlier of 90 days after the tax filing deadline, which includes extensions, or Sept. 1, Phillips added.

“With the tax filing deadline being moved to May 17, the IRS will do the redetermination in late August,” says Phillips. “For anyone that had their 2019 returns initially used, the IRS will look to see whether they have a 2020 return that’s been processed for them. If a filer is due more money, the IRS will give them the money.”

Will I still need to file state taxes by April 15?

Yes. The extended deadline is only for federal income taxes. It doesn’t affect a state’s income tax deadline. But last year, states also eventually pushed back their deadlines after Tax Day 2020 was extended to July 15 due to the pandemic.

Earlier this month, Maryland pushed its state income tax filing deadline to July 15, according to Comptroller Peter Franchot. 

It’s important that taxpayers check their state to see if they are moving their deadline.

Which states have their federal taxes delayed until June 15?

Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana residents were previously given a June 15 deadline to file taxes because of the winter storm that swept through those states in February.


Here are a few notable ways the very latest tech can save a whole lot of time, money and headaches when it comes to pandemic-year taxes.


How do I check the status of my tax refund?

You can use the IRS “Where’s My Refund” tool to check the status of your tax refund. Enter your Social Security number or ITIN, your filing status and your refund amount. There is also a mobile app, called IRS2Go, that you can use to check your refund status.

Could Tax Day be delayed again?

It’s unlikely but not impossible, experts say.

Any taxpayer who feels they will need more time to file their 2020 income taxes can get an automatic extension by filing Form 4868 and will have until October 15 to do so. But pay at least 90% of your tax bill by May 17 to avoid additional penalty and interest on any balance due, tax professionals caution. 

Will tax refunds be delayed longer for Americans as the IRS tries to implement tax code changes in the midst of tax season?

Roughly 7.6 million returns haven’t been processed yet so far this tax season, according to IRS filing statistics through the week ended March 12. That’s nearly three times the number in the same period last year, when 2.7 million faced delayed processing.

Experts say that most Americans shouldn’t expect a major delay in their refunds.

“IRS has said there are no delays in tax refunds, unless tax returns trigger a closer look with information that warrants additional consideration as with significant changes from prior returns on information different than on IRS systems,” says Steber.

Still, some Americans who made sure to file electronically on Feb. 12 when tax season kicked off contacted USA TODAY this month and said they were still waiting for the IRS to process their returns.

The IRS has said that the typical turnaround time for refunds is 21 days.

Some tax professionals are worried that millions of filers could face significant processing delays, especially those who already filed their taxes if they end up having to file an amended return to take advantage of new tax breaks on unemployment and dependent children from the latest relief package passed last week.

“The IRS did say that there would be some delays as the filing season didn’t start for 2020 until Feb. 12, and they are working diligently to factor in recent tax law changes,” says Eric Pierre, founder, CEO and principal of Pierre Accounting. “I recommend that you file electronically and have any refund due direct deposited.”

How can homeless people get their checks? What organizations can help them get the money?

Americans who are homeless are eligible for stimulus checks. There isn’t a requirement to be a taxpayer to receive one, according to tax experts.

People need to be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien, not a dependent of another taxpayer, and have a valid Social Security number to be eligible for all three stimulus checks. 

“Homeless Americans will face several obstacles,” says Meredith Tucker. “First, they need to file a 2020 income tax return, even if they have no income to report.” 

“The second obstacle is the fact that many homeless do not have bank accounts where the IRS can direct deposit their payments which means they’ll be waiting on checks or debit cards,” Tucker added.

The IRS does have a FreeFile program available that can be accessed by computer and smartphone, which means homeless individuals will need to arrange computer access through community agencies, libraries or friends, according to Tucker.

For the first stimulus, people were able to use the IRS “non-filers tool” to register at, but the tool is no longer active. If people aren’t able to register on this tool, they will have to file a tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit for the first two stimulus checks that were distributed last year. 

If you don’t have a permanent address, your stimulus can be sent to a local post office, homeless shelter, or a place of worship. People should use an address of a local shelter, friend or family member, the Federal Trade Commission recommends.

For those who don’t have a bank account, the IRS can mail you an Economic Impact Payment Card, which works like a debit card.

United Way offers an online guide to help answer questions. You can contact United Way’s 211 Economic Impact Payment Helpline by calling (844)-322-3639 for assistance.

Campbell of TaxAct recommends that people find a local IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site to get free tax help if you qualify.


Biden speech highlights: When are we getting the next stimulus check, COVID relief bill tax changes and more from Biden speech and American Rescue Plan


Is there a maximum number of checks a household can receive (say, a family of 10)?

All dependents are now eligible for stimulus payments in the third round. The payment should include all eligible dependents and will be paid in one lump sum to whoever claims them, according to Tucker.

“There is no limit defined in the law, however normal IRS checks and balances probably will trigger a second look with a tax return with 10 family members but certainly is legal,” says Steber. “Remember, any individual who is a taxpayer’s dependent will not get their own check, instead they should be on the parent(s) return giving the parent(s) the additional money.”

Previously, if you had a child over the age of 16 or had an adult dependent, they didn’t receive a stimulus. The payments would amount to $1,400 for each dependent child. Eligible families will get a $1,400 payment per qualifying dependent claimed on their tax return, including college students, adults with disabilities, parents and grandparents.

If you are a head of household and not married, how does your stimulus payment change?

Single taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below will qualify for a full $1,400 economic impact payment. From here, it begins to phase out for those making above $80,000. It would be $2,800 for a married couple filing jointly, plus an additional $1,400 for each dependent child. Married couples with incomes up to $150,000 will get the full payment and will phase out for those earning above $160,000.

A Head of Household taxpayer isn’t eligible if their income is $120,000 or greater, although there is a phase-out between $112,500 and $120,000. Otherwise, a Head of Household will receive a $1,400 stimulus payment for themselves and each qualifying dependent with a Social Security Number, regardless of age, according to Steber.

How does the $10,200 tax waiver work for unemployment benefits?

As part of the American Rescue Plan, many taxpayers wouldn’t be required to pay taxes on up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits received last year. The exclusion is up to $10,200 of jobless benefits for each spouse for married couples.

So it’s possible that if both lost work in 2020, a married couple filing a joint return might not have to pay federal income taxes on up to $20,400 in jobless benefits.

The special provision to waive taxes on some unemployment income applies to those who made less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income in 2020.

What if I already filed my tax return but want to claim the unemployment waiver?

More guidance will be available soon about what taxpayers need to do if they’ve already filed a federal income tax return but had jobless benefits in 2020, the IRS officials said.

Taxpayers should “absolutely not” file an amended return at this time, IRS Commissioner Rettig said Thursday. The agency may be able to adjust these returns for people who have already filed, Rettig said.

“We believe we will be able to monitor and we will be able to announce that individuals will not have to file amended returns to be able to take the exclusion for the $10,200 per person,” Rettig told lawmakers.

“We believe that we will be able to handle this on our own,” Rettig added. “We believe that we will be able to automatically issue refunds associated with the $10,200.”

For eligible taxpayers who already received refunds, the IRS will issue a second refund associated with the new tax exemption, Rettig said.

What should I do if I haven’t filed my return yet but want to claim the waiver?

The IRS issued instructions for those who haven’t filed a return yet, but want to claim the waiver of $10,200 on unemployment insurance. 

“For those who haven’t filed yet, the IRS will provide a worksheet for paper filers and work with software industry to update current tax software so that taxpayers can determine how to report their unemployment income on their 2020 tax return,” the IRS said.

The IRS is currently accepting federal returns with the new waiver for those who haven’t filed yet. Depending on your tax company, that function may or may not be available due to software upgrades needed, according to Steber. Jackson Hewitt has made all the changes under the new rule, he added. 

Phillips said H&R Block would be ready to implement the changes Friday. 

Will the unemployment waiver work for states taxes, too? 

More than half of states levy an income tax on jobless benefits. States will have to decide if they will also offer the tax break on state income taxes.

It’s possible that some may still opt to tax the jobless aid, experts say. 

Some already exempt taxes on unemployment, including California, New Jersey, Virginia, Montana and Pennsylvania. And some don’t levy state income taxes at all, including Texas, Florida, Alaska, Nevada, Washington, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Is the child tax credit expanded?

Yes, the American Rescue Plan includes a temporary increase for the child tax credit for 2021.

The credit is worth $2,000 per child under 17 that can be claimed as a dependent.

It temporarily boosts the credit to $3,000 per child, or $3,600 per child under 6. It allows 17-year-old children to qualify for the first time. 

The credit will begin to phase out for those earning more than $75,000 a year, or $150,000 for those married filing jointly. The IRS will look to prior-year tax returns to determine who qualifies for the higher credit. If a return for 2020 hasn’t been filed yet, the agency will look to 2019 returns.

Families who aren’t eligible for the higher child credit may still be able to claim $2,000 credit per child.

If you have more tax questions you can submit them here and read earlier answers below.


The 2021 tax season is in full swing, but you shouldn’t rush through your returns. Here are 5 mistakes that could cost you.


How do I get my stimulus check that was lost in the mail?

If you got a notice through the website Get My Payment or received a Notice 1444 (or 1444-B) showing your payment was issued, you should request a payment trace if it has been:

  • 4 weeks since the payment was mailed
  • 6 weeks since the payment was mailed, and you have a forwarding address
  • 9 weeks since the payment was mailed, and you have a foreign address

If the check wasn’t cashed, the IRS will reverse the payment and notify you, and then you can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 taxes.

However, if the check was cashed, the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send you a claim package and then you have to follow the process it comes with. Treasury will review the claim, but you shouldn’t file for the credit in your 2020 taxes until the trace is complete.

If you need to request a trace, here’s the information from the IRS to call or mail/fax the appropriate form.

— Josh Rivera

Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh1Rivera

If your W-2 is blank because you are exempt from tax, do you have to send it to the IRS?

Yes, you must report all income regardless of exemptions or credits.

— Josh Rivera

Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh1Rivera

I want to know if I had zero income in 2020 do I need to file to get my stimulus check?

For the first and second stimulus checks the IRS was using Americans’ most recent tax returns available to calculate whether they would get an economic impact payment and how much – during 2020 those would be 2018 or 2019.

Submitting a 2020 return, even if you had no income, would make it possible to claim a stimulus payment because the money was an advance on a tax credit. By filing a return and showing you were eligible for the credit but didn’t receive it, you can claim the stimulus.

… How to file for 2020 when I had absolutely no income, other than a stimulus checks?

It is still recommended that you file taxes to keep a record of you financial situation for the year and possible upcoming stimulus payments.

Stimulus payments could also indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in some states where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, according to The New York Times.

— Josh Rivera

Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh1Rivera

How can I electronically file my taxes for free?

You can use IRS Free File to prepare and file your federal income tax online for free if your income is below $72,000. For those with income above that amount, you can access IRS’ Free Fillable Forms. 

The IRS’ IRS2Go (iOS, Android) is a bare-bones app that lets you check your refund status and schedule payments if you owe money. It can even connect you with an IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistant. 

For simple federal filers, H&R Block, FreeTaxUSA and Credit Karma (now owned by TurboTax’s Intuit) are also available. (Note that these services work for simple filers. Those with additional items to report, like an HSA, investments, have moved or are self-employed might need additional services.)

— Josh Rivera and Jennifer Jolly

Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh1Rivera and Jennifer @JenniferJolly.

Am I allowed to skip a required minimum distribution for 2021?

Under the CARES Act, required minimum distributions for 2020 were waived. However, RMD is back on for 2021.

If you don’t take a RMD you might get a penalty of 50% of the shortfall, on top of whatever taxes are due on the original amount.

RMDs are based on the balance in your traditional IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement-savings plans as of Dec. 31, 2020, and an IRS life-expectancy factor based on your age.

The SECURE Act, passed in late 2019, raised the age to start taking the required withdrawals to 72. For 2022, the IRS released new tables for all three life expectancy tables affecting RMD.

— Josh Rivera

Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh1Rivera

How do I file my taxes if I didn’t receive a Notice 1444?

… I received one of the stimulus checks in 2020 and one in 2021, do I report both in 2020 taxes or on the years received?

Brittany Benson, senior tax research analyst, The Tax Institute at H&R Block, said even if you don’t receive, or didn’t keep a Notice 1444 for a stimulus payment, you should still enter the amount you received in advance payments to accurately calculate your recovery rebate credit. You can use an IRS online account and go to the “tax records” tab to see the amount of EIPs received. 

The IRS suggests that you can check your IRS account online for the stimulus amount received, if you misplaced Form 1444 or Form 1444-B.

The IRS only began mailing out Form 1444-B for the second stimulus payments the first week of February. So there’s a shot that form will show up in the mail soon. Don’t throw it out.

— Susan Tompor

Follow Susan on Twitter @tompor.

Can I claim stimulus payments if I just graduated college?

For both of the last two rounds of stimulus checks, payments were available for adults and for child dependents under the age of 17. Unfortunately, anyone who was claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return wasn’t eligible for a check of their own. As a result, many college students were ineligible.

The IRS thought they were still dependents based on their parents’ old returns, but they were adult dependents so no money was sent for them.

Submitting a 2020 return will make it possible to claim a stimulus payment because the money was an advance on a tax credit. By filing a return and showing you were eligible for the credit but didn’t receive it, you can claim the stimulus funds you’re due.

— Christy Bieber

The Motley Fool

We answer your coronavirus money questions. (Photo: Teresa Lo)

I never got my second stimulus check, even though it says it was mail. Can I claim it on my taxes?

If you are eligible for a stimulus check and it was lost, stolen or destroyed, you should request a payment trace so the IRS can determine if your payment was cashed. (You can do that here.)

If a trace is initiated and the IRS determines that the check wasn’t cashed, the IRS says it will credit your account for it but the IRS cannot reissue the payment. Instead, you will need to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return if eligible.

“If you are filing your 2020 tax return before your trace is complete, do not include the payment amount on line 16 or 19 of the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet,” the IRS says. “You may receive a notice saying your Recovery Rebate Credit was changed, but an adjustment will be made after the trace is complete. If you do not request a trace on your payment, you may receive an error when claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return.”

— Josh Rivera

Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh1Rivera

How do I sign up for direct deposit for the stimulus payments if I don’t have to file a tax return?

Unfortunately, the IRS’s Non-Filers tool is no longer available. It might behoove you to still file your 2020 taxes so you can claim the first two rounds of stimulus on your 2020 tax return as the Recovery Rebate Credit.

— Josh Rivera

Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh1Rivera

Can the IRS take my stimulus money to offset previous year’s tax penalties?

The IRS says it will not garnish stimulus checks for back taxes.

— Josh Rivera

Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh1Rivera

How do I file taxes if I only received unemployment in 2020?

Unemployment benefits are taxable income. If you received unemployment benefits at any point you should have receive a Form 1099-G reporting the 2020 total to the IRS. If you didn’t receive the form, most state unemployment sites will have the form available to download once you log in. If you had any taxes withheld from the benefits those should appear on the form.

— Josh Rivera

Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh1Rivera

Will I owe taxes on stimulus checks?

No, stimulus checks aren’t considered income by the IRS. They are prepaid tax credits for your 2020 tax return, authorized by two relief bills passed last year that aimed at stabilizing the struggling U.S. economy in the wake of the pandemic. Because the stimulus payments aren’t considered income by the tax agency, it won’t impact your refund by increasing your adjusted gross income or putting you in a higher tax bracket, for instance.

When it comes to getting paperwork ready, you’ll want to dig up the IRS Notice 1444 for the stimulus payment amount you were issued in 2020. And the second round of payments would be outlined in Notice 1444-B.  

— Jessica Menton and Aimee Picchi

Follow Jessica on Twitter @JessicaMenton and Aimee @aimeepicchi

What if I never received a stimulus payment?

“If you didn’t receive the full payment you were entitled to, then it’s possible that when you are filing your 2020 tax return you may end up getting more money,” says Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at financial services firm Betterment.

“If your economic situation changed – let’s say you qualified based on 2018 or 2019 income because it was lower, but your economic situation improved for 2020 – the IRS actually can’t ask for any of that money back,” Bronnenkant adds. “Your situation can’t get worse in that scenario.”

Taxpayers will need to file a 2020 federal income tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit if they didn’t get their Economic Impact Payments or they received less money than they’re eligible to get, such as if a child’s credit wasn’t included in the payout. 

The Recovery Rebate Credit is listed on Line 30 of the 1040 Form for the 2020 tax year. 

— Aimee Picchi and Susan Tompor

Follow Aimee on Twitter @aimeepicchi and Susan @tompor.

What if I lost my job during the pandemic?

Tax filers will be able to choose whether they want to use either their 2019 or 2020 earned income to calculate the Earned Income Tax Credit on their 2020 income tax returns, thanks to a one-time lookback provision. The lookback will help financially challenged people qualify for the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit, which is allowed even if you do not owe any tax. 

Unemployment compensation is taxable income. Since many did not have taxes withheld, they could face a tax bill. A generous payout for the earned income credit could offset some taxes that will be owed and even contribute to a tax refund.

The earned income credit will vary. The maximum credit is $6,660 for those filing a 2020 tax return but applies only to tax filers who have three or more qualifying children. By contrast, the maximum credit is $538 for someone who has a limited earned income but no children.

The maximum adjusted gross income allowed to obtain the earned income credit is up to $15,820 for those who are single with no children.

The highest cutoff is $56,844 for married couples filing a joint return with three or more qualifying children. The cutoff is an adjusted gross income of $41,756 for those who are single, widowed or head of household with one child.

— Susan Tompor

Follow Susan on Twitter @tompor.

My income changed since I last filed my taxes. What should I do?

In that case, you should use the recovery rebate worksheet to calculate how much you are owed and claim that amount on Line 30 on their 2020 tax return. You’ll receive the stimulus payments in your refund check.

— Aimee Picchi

Follow Aimee on Twitter @aimeepicchi.

What if I donated to a food bank or another charity during the pandemic?

Food banks and others found themselves in need of contributions as the country dealt with skyrocketing unemployment. Many of us heard the call and wrote out checks that can now be used as a tax deduction. 

See Line 10-b on the 1040 return for 2020 to take an above-the-line deduction for charitable contributions. Cash donations of up to $300 made to qualifying organizations before Dec. 31, 2020, are now deductible when you file your tax return, thanks to a special provision enacted earlier last year. 

— Susan Tompor

Follow Susan on Twitter @tompor.

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