It’s true, your second stimulus check might be smaller, if…


If a second check goes through, you may not get the full $1,200 per adult.

Angela Lang/CNET

Member of Congress unveiled three new stimulus bill proposals on Tuesday, two of which conspicuously left out another direct payment of up to $1,200 per person. (One, a private proposal from top Democrats to top Republicans, has not been made public.) By Wednesday afternoon, Democrats from President-elect Joe Biden to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have thrown their weight behind a $908 billion plan for 2020, with sights set on another stimulus bill in 2021 — one that could include the popular stimulus check.

“In the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Wednesday. “Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate and we believe that with good-faith negotiations we could come to an agreement.” 

Whenever Congress approves a new stimulus payment, the qualifications may change in ways that could result in bigger or smaller checks for tens of millions of people (although some might not qualify at all). Until eligibility is final, we can take a guess at how much stimulus money your household could receive. Read on for more information. This story updates regularly.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Your potential next stimulus check: 1 key thing to know

In the first round of stimulus checks, the IRS for the most part used your most recent federal tax return (2019 0r 2018) when calculating your total payment (people who don’t ordinarily file tax returns were in many cases eligible as well). But some people who qualified for a check have experienced personal or financial changes after filing that could affect a future payment one way or another. 

New job? Or did you earn more overall?

Your adjusted gross income, or AGI, is a term normally used for the IRS’ yearly tax return to describe your total income, including assets (like stock sales, credits and deductions or an inheritance, for example) that fall outside your usual paycheck. The first stimulus check, and most likely the second, will cut you off if your AGI goes above a certain income limit.

There’s a huge correlation between your tax status and stimulus checks, and any change in your AGI could increase or reduce the size of your check.

For instance, if you received the full $1,200 per qualified adult with the first stimulus check because your AGI was under the income limit, but then you got a promotion or a new job that pays more (congratulations), then your check may be smaller next time — since the IRS pays out on a sliding scale — or you may have maxed out the threshold and no longer qualify. All told, this is a “good” problem to have.


Kids grow up, and you could be out $500 per child.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Did you have more child dependents earlier this year than you do now?

Age is an important factor in how much stimulus money a household gets, but maybe not like you think. Older adults are in many cases entitled to a stimulus check. In the first round of direct payments, households were given an extra $500 for each “child dependent.” This is a legal minor who is 16 years old or younger. 

Interestingly, the IRS’ definition of a child dependent for your taxes (23 or under, and financially reliant on the tax filer) isn’t the same set of terms used for stimulus checks. 

If the rules stay the same (and there’s some indication they may not), any older dependents you claimed for the first check may have aged out of eligibility, which means you could get $500 less if rules stay the same.

Do you owe back child support or did you change how your dependent is claimed?

For the most part, any stimulus check you receive you have full rights to use as you like. However, one exception laid out in the CARES Act from March was child support. If you owe child support to your kid’s other parent, you may have some or all of your stimulus check garnished. If you received an extra $500 for the way you and…

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