Recovery Rebate Credit

Brief Overview of Recovery Rebate Credit

The Recovery Rebate Credit is a financial relief mechanism implemented by the U.S. government to provide assistance to eligible individuals and families during challenging economic times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This credit is designed to ensure that individuals receive the full amount of Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) they are entitled to, even if they did not receive the full payment or any payment at all through the initial stimulus checks. The credit is calculated based on various factors, including income, filing status, and the number of dependents. Eligible individuals can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their federal income tax return. It serves as a way to reconcile any discrepancies between the amount of the Economic Impact Payments they received and the total amount they qualify for according to their 2020 or 2021 tax situation.

You may have received the first and/or second Economic Impact Payments (EIP), also known as COVID-19-related stimulus payments. The amounts were contingent on your tax return filing status and adjusted gross income (AGI) and were distributed as follows:

  • $1,200 or $2,400 plus $500 per dependent for the first stimulus payment,
  • $600 or $1,200 plus $600 per dependent for the second stimulus payment, and
  • $1,400 or $2,800 plus $1,400 per dependent for the third stimulus payment.

These payments were determined based on your most recently available tax return: 2018, 2019, or 2020. Additionally, $500 was allocated for each qualifying child for the first EIP, $600 for the second, and $1,400 for the third. It’s important to note that there was no fourth federal stimulus check.

It’s crucial to understand that the stimulus or economic impact payments were not considered taxable income on your 2020 or 2021 Tax Returns, and there was no requirement to repay any EIP amounts received in 2020 or 2021 if you met the eligibility criteria.

Significance for Non-Filers

The significance of the Recovery Rebate Credit is particularly noteworthy for individuals who are not typically required to file a federal income tax return, commonly referred to as non-filers. Many non-filers, including low-income individuals and certain retirees, may not have filed a tax return in recent years due to their income level or other circumstances.

For non-filers, the Recovery Rebate Credit provides an avenue to access the financial assistance they may have missed during the distribution of Economic Impact Payments. By filing a tax return and claiming this credit, eligible non-filers can ensure that they receive the full amount of the stimulus payments they are entitled to, thereby offering a crucial source of economic support.

It’s important for non-filers to be aware of their eligibility for the Recovery Rebate Credit and to take the necessary steps to file a tax return if they wish to claim this credit. This process ensures that individuals, regardless of their filing history, have the opportunity to receive the financial relief intended by the government in response to economic challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligibility Criteria

Understanding Non-Filer Status

Non-filer status refers to individuals who are not required to file a federal income tax return due to various reasons, such as having a low income that falls below the filing threshold or not meeting other filing requirements. Many non-filers include individuals who may rely on sources of income that are not taxable, such as certain Social Security recipients, retirees, or individuals with minimal income.

To determine non-filer status, individuals should consider their income, filing status, and other factors outlined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It’s crucial for those who fall into the non-filer category to understand that, despite not being required to file a tax return, they may still be eligible for certain tax credits and benefits, including the Recovery Rebate Credit. Please note if you’re eligible and either didn’t qualify for a third Economic Impact Payment or got less than the full amount, you’ll need to file a 2020 or 2021 tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit even if you otherwise are not required to file a tax return.

 Criteria for Claiming Recovery Rebate Credit

  1. Filing Status: Individuals must have a filing status of Single, Married Filing Jointly, Head of Household, or Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child.
  2. U.S. Citizenship or Resident Alien Status: Claimants must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or resident aliens with a valid Social Security number.
  3. Not Claimed as a Dependent: An individual cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return to qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit.
  4. Income Limitations: Eligibility is based on adjusted gross income (AGI) thresholds. The credit amount gradually phases out for individuals with higher incomes, and there is an income cap beyond which the credit is not available.
  5. Economic Impact Payment Status: Individuals who did not receive the full amount of the Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) may be eligible to claim the remaining amount through the Recovery Rebate Credit.
  6. Filing a Tax Return: To claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, eligible individuals must file a federal income tax return, even if they are not required to do so for other reasons. Filing a return is the mechanism through which non-filers can access the credit.

For couples filing joint tax returns, if only one spouse possesses a valid Social Security Number (SSN), the maximum claim for the spouse with the SSN is limited to $1,400. If you’re seeking an additional $1,400 for a dependent, that dependent must also have a valid SSN or an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN). Generally, if neither you nor your spouse has a valid SSN, the claim is capped at $1,400 for each qualifying dependent on your tax return. However, if either you or your spouse was an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces at any point in 2021, only one of you needs a valid SSN to qualify for up to $2,800, plus an extra $1,400 for each qualifying dependent.

In the case of a person who passed away in 2021 or 2022, the recovery rebate credit can still be claimed on their final tax return. This return should be prepared by a surviving spouse or representative, provided that the aforementioned requirements are met.

Understanding and meeting these criteria is essential for individuals seeking to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit. It ensures that eligible individuals, including those in non-filer status, have the opportunity to receive the full financial assistance intended by the government in response to economic challenges.

Guidance on Retrieving Unreceived Stimulus Checks

The initial two IRS stimulus checks served as upfront allocations of the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit. Likewise, the third Economic Impact Payment mirrors the first and second installments, acting as an advance payment of the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit. Consequently, if you find yourself without the third stimulus check, you must address this on your 2021 Tax Return since the IRS has ceased distributing these advance payments. In the event you missed out on the first and/or second stimulus checks, you should seek to claim them on your 2020 Return.

For individuals whose third stimulus check is lost, stolen, or damaged, the IRS offers the option to initiate a “payment trace” to verify if the check has been cashed. If you file your 2021 tax return before the trace is concluded, refrain from including the payment amount on the recovery rebate credit worksheet to avoid potential IRS notices indicating credit adjustments. Once the trace establishes that your payment wasn’t cashed, any necessary adjustments will be made, and you won’t need to take further action to receive the credit.

Failure to request a payment trace may result in the IRS rejecting any recovery rebate credit claimed on your 2021 return. As the payment was issued to you, the IRS will deem you ineligible for the credit.

If your third stimulus payment was dispatched on a debit card but you failed to activate it before February 1, 2022, the IRS should have sent you a letter prompting you to activate the card or request a replacement if you inadvertently discarded it.

Can I still claim a Recovery Rebate Credit if I already filed my 2020 or 2021 taxes?

If you filed your 2020 and/or 2021 taxes and failed to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit, you can still try to file an Amended Tax Return 1040-X. The IRS will not calculate your Recovery Rebate Credit if you did not enter an amount on your original tax return.9 Taxpayers have 3 years to file an amended return.




Steps to Claim Recovery Rebate Credit

Gather Necessary Information

Before initiating the process to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, it is essential to gather the necessary information. This includes:

  1. Personal Information: Full legal name, Social Security number, and date of birth for yourself, your spouse (if applicable), and any dependents.
  2. Filing Status: Determine your filing status, such as Single, Married Filing Jointly, Head of Household, or Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child.
  3. Income Information: Collect details on your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the relevant tax year. This information is crucial for determining your eligibility and the amount of the credit.
  4. Dependent Information: If applicable, gather information about any dependents you plan to claim, including their names, Social Security numbers, and relationship to you.

Filing deadlines if you haven’t yet filed a tax return

To claim the:

  • 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit, file a tax return by May 17, 2024.
  • 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit, file a tax return by April 15, 2025. 

 Utilize the IRS Non-Filers Tool

Check Eligibility: Verify your eligibility for the Recovery Rebate Credit based on the criteria outlined by the IRS.

Access the Non-Filers Tool: If you are a non-filer and did not receive the full amount of the Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks), consider using the IRS Non-Filers tool. This online tool is designed for individuals who are not required to file a tax return but wish to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit.

Provide Required Information: Complete the necessary fields in the Non-Filers tool, entering your personal information, dependent details, and any other requested information.

Submit the Form: Once all required information is entered accurately, submit the form through the Non-Filers tool. This action notifies the IRS of your intent to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit.

Common Mistakes to Avoid when Claiming Recovery Rebate Credit

Providing Inaccurate Information

Incorrect Personal Details: Ensure that all personal information, such as your full legal name, Social Security number, and date of birth, is entered accurately. Mistakes in these details can lead to processing errors and delays in claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit.

Filing Status Errors: Double-check your filing status to make sure it reflects your actual situation. Choosing the wrong filing status may affect your eligibility for the credit and other associated benefits.

Inaccurate Income Reporting: Provide precise information about your adjusted gross income (AGI) and any other relevant income sources. Errors in income reporting can impact the amount of the credit you qualify for.

Dependent Information Mistakes: If you are claiming dependents, ensure that their information, including names, Social Security numbers, and relationships, is entered accurately. Mistakes in dependent information can lead to processing issues.

Economic Impact Payment Details: Report the correct amount of Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) you received. Providing inaccurate information about these payments may affect the calculation of the Recovery Rebate Credit.


***What if I discover that I made a mistake on my Recovery Rebate Credit request?***

The IRS states, “DO NOT file an amended tax return.” The IRS will find and fix the error and send you a notice. There could be a delay in processing your tax return.



Missing the Deadline

Failure to File on Time: Missing the IRS deadline for filing your tax return can result in the loss of the opportunity to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit. Be aware of and adhere to the specified filing deadlines.

Late Submission of Non-Filers Tool: If using the IRS Non-Filers tool to claim the credit, submit the information in a timely manner. Failing to do so may result in delays in processing and receiving the credit.

Ignoring Extension Deadlines: If granted an extension to file your tax return, be aware of the extended deadline. Failing to file by the extended deadline may result in penalties and interest.

Overlooking State Filing Deadlines: Pay attention to both federal and state tax filing deadlines. Missing state filing deadlines can lead to separate penalties and consequences.

Waiting Until the Last Minute: Procrastination can lead to errors and oversights. Start the process of gathering information and filing your tax return well before the deadline to avoid unnecessary stress and ensure accuracy.

Guide on Monitoring Your Stimulus Payments

If you’ve forgotten the precise amount you received through stimulus checks, there are various methods to ascertain your payment status:

  1. The first stimulus check’s amount is detailed in IRS Notice 1444, the second in Notice 1444-B, and the third in Notice 1444-C, all dispatched by the IRS. Until March 2022, they also sent Letter 6475, confirming the total amount of the third stimulus check along with any supplementary “plus-up” payments.
  2. If you possess an IRS online account, you can check the Tax Records tab under “Economic Impact Payment Information” to find the exact amounts of the stimulus payments you received.
  3. If you had direct deposits, inspect your bank statements. These payments typically appear as “IRS TREAS 310” with codes “TAXEIP1” (1st payment), “TAXEIP2” (2nd stimulus payment), or “TAXEIP3” (3rd stimulus payment).
  4. Request a tax account transcript from the IRS using the Get Transcript service, accessible online. To receive a mailed transcript, submit Form 4506-T or make a request through the IRS automated phone transcript service at 800-908-9946.

If these options prove ineffective, you can provide the amounts based on your memory. Should any discrepancies arise, the IRS will rectify them and notify you of any adjustments made to your return.

When can I expect to receive my Recovery Rebate Credit?

Typically, the Recovery Rebate Credit will be disbursed as part of your tax refunds. However, the duration for receiving your funds depends on your chosen filing options and the accuracy of the information provided. Generally, the process takes anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks.

While errors won’t lead to financial loss, they may necessitate additional time for resolution. Any inaccuracies in your federal tax return, particularly those related to calculating the recovery rebate credit, can cause delays and extend the timeframe for your refund. If all information on your tax return is accurate, you might receive your refund within a couple of weeks. Conversely, if errors or issues arise, the process could extend for several months.

Opting for direct deposit expedites the receipt of your payment compared to waiting for it through traditional mail. Depending on your preferences, your refund can be electronically deposited into your bank account, prepaid debit card, or mobile app.

Encouragement to Claim the Recovery Rebate Credit

We strongly encourage eligible individuals, including non-filers, to take advantage of the Recovery Rebate Credit. By claiming this credit, you not only gain direct financial relief but also contribute to your overall financial well-being. The credit is designed to be inclusive, ensuring that a diverse range of individuals can access the support they need.

Claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit can have positive implications for your current financial situation, reducing tax liabilities and potentially increasing your refund. It’s a proactive step that not only addresses immediate economic challenges but also allows for thoughtful tax planning and financial decision-making.

As you navigate the process of claiming the credit, stay informed about IRS deadlines, provide accurate information, and file your tax return in a timely manner. By doing so, you maximize the benefits of the Recovery Rebate Credit and contribute to the broader effort of economic recovery.



  • Where can I get help completing my 2020 and 2021 tax return for the years 2020 and 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit if I can’t do it myself?

    If you are unable to or choose not to use the IRS Free File or Free File Fillable Forms to file your 2020 or 2021 tax return, even if you don’t usually file taxes; to claim the 2020 or 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit, there are various types of tax return preparers, including certified public accountants, enrolled agents, attorneys and others who can assist you in filing your return.
    Need someone to prepare your tax return? Contact HQ Tax & Financial to help you today at 615.398.2939

  • Can I claim the credit if I haven’t filed taxes for several years?

    Yes, you can still claim the Recovery Rebate Credit even if you haven’t filed taxes for several years. The credit is available to eligible individuals, including non-filers, who may not have a recent tax filing history. Utilize the appropriate tools, such as the IRS Non-Filers tool, to provide the necessary information and claim the credit.

  • How does claiming the credit affect my future tax returns?

    Claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit typically does not have a direct impact on your future tax returns beyond the tax year in which you claim the credit. However, the credit may affect your tax planning considerations, as it contributes to your overall tax situation for the specific year in which it is claimed.