Who’s Entitled to Stimulus Payments

By Kaye A. Thomas
Current as of February 18, 2021

Most people are eligible to receive stimulus payments, but there are four exceptions.

The general rule is that everyone can receive stimulus payments — or the recovery rebate credit that acts as a backup for people who did not. There are four exceptions, though. In each case, the exceptions depend on your status for purposes of 2020. For example, if you were a dependent in 2019 but not in 2020

  • Dependents. Even if you have enough income to have to file a tax return, you can’t claim the recovery rebate credit (the backup for stimulus payments that weren’t received) if you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return.
  • Nonresident aliens. Even if you’re legally present in the United States, you can’t claim this benefit if you aren’t a citizen or a “green card” resident.
  • No SSN. You need to have a social security number to claim this credit. On a joint return, the credit is not available if neither spouse has a social security number. You get the single-filer credit (half the credit for couples) if only one spouse has a social security number. There’s an exception if at least one spouse is a member of the U.S. armed forces
  • High income. With income above certain levels, the credit is reduced and eventually eliminated altogether.

You don’t have to be a taxpayer in the normal sense of the word. You qualify even if you normally don’t file a tax return — or have never filed one — so long as you are not in one of these excluded categories. If you’re eligible, and didn’t receive a stimulus payment because you haven’t filed a tax return recently, you can file a 2020 tax return for the sole purpose of obtaining payment by claiming the recovery rebate credit.