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The Economic Impact Payments sent out during the COVID-19 pandemic have been a critical lifeline for many Americans—including Americans living abroad. However, not everyone received stimulus checks for the full amount available. If that’s the case for you, don’t worry. You may still be able to claim the balance of your stimulus payment through the IRS Recovery Rebate Credit.
Economic Impact Payments, also known as stimulus payments, were a series of three tax credits sent to most Americans to help ease the financial burden from the COVID-19 pandemic. These were an advance on refundable credits that could be claimed on Americans’ annual income tax returns. The first two rounds were considered part of the 2020 tax year, while the third was considered part of tax year 2021.
To get the payments to Americans as quickly as possible, the IRS used the most recent tax information they had on file to determine who was eligible and calculate how much they should receive. For most Americans, that worked just fine.
However, other Americans’ financial situations changed from 2020 to 2021 and beyond, meaning that they received less than they should have (or perhaps nothing at all). If this is the case for you, you may be able to use the Recovery Rebate Credit to claim the full amount as a refundable tax credit.
When considering the Recovery Rebate Credit, the first question to answer is who was eligible for the Economic Impact Payments. To qualify for any of the three stimulus payments, all of the following had to apply at the time:
Beyond these standards, there were certain income thresholds for claiming the full amount. If your income exceeded the relevant threshold, the amount you could claim was reduced. For example, the income threshold for single filers was $75,000. If your income for 2020 or 2021 was higher than that, you could still receive a stimulus payment, but not for the full amount.
But even if you didn’t receive an Economic Impact Payment (or you didn’t receive the full amount), you may still be eligible for the credits if your situation has changed since the payments were sent out. Let’s look at some examples.
Amy had never filed a US tax return when the stimulus payments were sent out. Because the IRS used Americans’ most recent tax returns to determine whether they qualified for a stimulus check (and how much they could claim), she wasn’t in the system. Thus, she never received any money.
Alan worked as a dental hygienist in 2019. In 2020, he was laid off. His income dropped for that year, meaning that he qualified for a higher stimulus payment. However, because the IRS used his 2019 income level to calculate his eligibility, he received a lower amount than he was owed.
Hector and Jessica claimed one child as a dependent on their 2020 tax return. Then, they had another child in 2021. Because the IRS only had a record of one child at the start of 2021, Hector and Jessica didn’t receive any additional financial relief for their second child when the third stimulus payment went out.
Some other possible examples include:
If you think you might have missed out on the full amount you were owed for one or more stimulus payments, don’t worry. You can still claim your due using the Recovery Rebate Credit.
To claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, you must file a US tax return for the year in which the Economic Impact Payment was sent out. For example, if you’re hoping to claim one or both of the two payments sent out in 2020, you will need to file a 2020 tax return. (Even if you weren’t otherwise required to file.) The same is true for the third stimulus payment sent out in 2021.
When filing your tax return, you will use Line 30 of Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit. (You will find instructions for how to calculate the credit in the instructions for either form.) Once you’ve calculated your credit and completed your tax return, simply file it as you usually would.
The IRS provides a wide variety of tax credits, deductions, and exclusions for Americans living abroad. Aside from the Recovery Rebate Credit, you may also be eligible to claim one or more of the following:
All US citizens are required to file a US tax return, and filing allows you to claim a variety of tax credits, such as the Recovery Rebate Credit. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a hassle, though.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. At Greenback Expat Tax Services, we help Americans living abroad file their expat taxes accurately and on time. Just contact us, and we’ll be happy to help you in any way we can.
Click here to get started with your expat tax return.