10 FAQs About Claiming the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit

Some people never received or didn’t get their full stimulus payment amount in 2021. If this applies to you, or if you gained any dependents in 2021, you might be able to claim the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit — even if you don’t usually file taxes.

Check out our FAQs below for general information on who is eligible for this important tax relief and how to claim the credit on your return this tax year.

What is the Recovery Rebate Credit?

The third Economic Impact Payment (stimulus payment) was an advance payment of the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit given to eligible individuals.

While most people received their third stimulus check in 2021, some Americans only received a partial payment or never received their entitled stimulus payment due to the IRS not knowing their updated tax situation.

If you are missing all or part of your third stimulus payment, you can claim the amount as a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2021 income tax return.

How is the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit different from 2020?

The third Economic Impact Payment (EIP) differed from the first two stimulus payments from 2020 in three ways:

  • The max payment amount increased to $1,400 per person (including all qualifying dependents).
  • Qualifying dependents were expanded to include additional amounts for all dependents, not just children under 17.
  • Income limitations changed — this year’s Recovery Rebate Credit fully reduces to $0 more quickly once your adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds the income threshold.

How do I know if I’m eligible to claim the tax credit?

You may qualify for the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit if you never received the third stimulus payment last year or didn’t receive the full amount.

Eligibility for the tax credit also depends on the following requirements:

  • You can’t be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer
  • You must have a Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN)
  • You cannot be a nonresident alien

Your credit amount will be reduced if your AGI exceeds the following income thresholds:

  • $150,000 for married joint filers or qualifying widows and widowers (ineligible for credit if AGI is $160,000 or more)
  • $112,500 for head-of-household filers (ineligible for credit if AGI is $120,000 or more)
  • $75,000 for all other filers (ineligible for credit if AGI is $80,000 or more)

I don’t need to file taxes with the IRS this year. Can I still claim the Recovery Rebate Credit?

Everyone eligible for this credit should file a 2021 federal tax return, even if you don’t usually file taxes. If you don’t owe taxes, you will receive the credit amount as a tax refund.

Can I claim the Recovery Rebate Credit even if I wasn’t eligible for the third stimulus payment?

Possibly! You might still be able to claim the tax credit if any of the following scenarios apply to you:

  • You had a change in income: If your income was lower in 2021, the IRS could have used an incorrect AGI to calculate your third stimulus payment, meaning you might qualify for more than you received (refer to the income thresholds we listed above).
  • You gained a qualifying dependent: You can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit for any qualifying child born, adopted, or placed into foster care with you in 2021.
  • You are no longer a dependent: If someone else claimed you as a dependent on their tax return in 2019 or 2020 and are no longer considered a dependent for 2021, you may be able to claim the credit on your tax return.
  • You were issued a Social Security number before the due date of your 2021 tax return (including any extensions).

I qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit. How will I get my payment?

Claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit will either reduce any tax you owe for 2021 or be included in your tax refund after you file.

I can’t remember the EIP amount I received last year. How do I look that up?

You can log in to your IRS online account to view your third Economic Impact Payment. If you received the third stimulus payment last year, the IRS should also send you Letter 6475, which will help you determine if you qualify to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit.

I received the third stimulus payment last year even though I wasn’t eligible. Do I have to pay it back?

Nope! You don’t need to pay back any of the third Economic Impact Payment, even if you received an overpayment from the IRS in error due to outdated information.

What will happen if I enter the wrong amount for the Recovery Rebate Credit on my tax return?

If you figured your credit incorrectly, the IRS requests that you do not file an amended return. The IRS will correct the Recovery Rebate Credit amount for you and continue processing your return. You won’t need to provide any additional information, but there may be a processing delay.

Make sure you don’t claim $0 or leave that field blank on your return — if you do, the IRS will take this as your decision not to claim the credit.

I’m eligible for a 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit, but I already filed and didn’t claim the credit. What should I do?

If you didn’t claim the credit on your original tax return, you must file an amended return using Form 1040-X.

Once you file your amended return, you can use the Where’s My Amended Return? online tool from the IRS to check its status. The tool works for both e-filed and paper amended returns.

The IRS is still experiencing significant processing delays due to the pandemic, so if you need to file an amended return, just keep that in mind!

Sophie Tremblay

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