Why Your Economic Impact Payment (EIP) Amount May Be Different Than You Expected

Throughout April and May, the IRS delivered well over 100 million Economic Impact Payments (EIPs, also called stimulus payments) to Americans. It was widely publicized that many individual taxpayers would receive EIPs in the amount of $1,200, with an additional payment of $500 per qualifying child. However, the size of each payment depended on a person’s income, family circumstances, and other factors. If your EIP amount was different than you expected, it may have been for one or more of these reasons:

  • Your adjusted gross income (AGI) may be higher than the limit to receive the maximum EIP amount. For example, single filers with an AGI above $75,000 receive a reduced EIP, with the amount decreasing to $0 for those with AGIs of $99,000 or more. Joint filers with AGIs above $150,000 also receive reduced EIPs, or no EIP if their AGI exceeds $198,000.


  • Your 2018 tax return was used because you have not filed your 2019 return, or the IRS has not yet processed your 2019 return. If you have not filed your 2019 federal tax return yet, your EIP amount may have been calculated based on the AGI and family size shown on your 2018 return, which may differ from your 2019 information. Your 2018 return may also have been used if you filed your 2019 return very recently, or the IRS found an issue with your 2019 return that has delayed processing.


  • Your dependents may not qualify for the additional $500-per-child payment. To be eligible for the additional payment, dependent children generally must live with you for more than half the year and be related to you (including by adoption or foster care). Each child must also have been under the age of 17 at the end of the tax year that the IRS used to calculate your EIP (either 2018 or 2019), and have a Social Security Number (SSN) or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN).


  • Your payment may have been reduced due to payments you owe, such as past-due child support or other debts. In the event of a reduction due to child support owed, you should receive a notice from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service explaining the reduction. For all other debts, creditors can only gain access to your EIP after it is deposited into your bank account, so your bank records should show the deduction.

If you were entitled to a larger EIP than the one you actually received (for example, if you had a child in 2019 but have not yet filed your 2019 federal tax return), you may be able to claim a credit on your 2020 tax return for any additional amount you are owed.

Unfortunately, because EIPs were sent based on 2018 and 2019 tax returns, many Americans have received checks made out to relatives who are deceased. The IRS has stated that these payments must be returned. The easiest way to return such a payment is to write “VOID” in the endorsement area on the back of the check and mail it to the nearest IRS Service Center (addresses available at irs.gov), with a note explaining why you are returning it.