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How filing taxes could generate your coronavirus stimulus check

Stacks of $100 bills. If you qualify for coronavirus stimulus funds in 2020, filing taxes will lead to you getting the money.
For someone whose 2019 income was too high to qualify for coronavirus stimulus funds but whose 2020 income is lower and would quality, filing taxes will generate a credit and the taxpayer will then get the money.
(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Dear Liz: My adjusted gross income in 2019 was too high for me to get a stimulus relief payment. However, my income this year will be much lower and I would qualify. Will I automatically get the stimulus payment when I file my 2020 return or is there something I must do to get the money?

Answer: Just file your 2020 taxes and you’ll get the money.

The recent relief checks of up to $1,200 per adult were created using a refundable credit that will apply to 2020 taxes. (Refundable credits reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar, with any excess refunded to the taxpayer.)

The structure of this refundable credit has created some confusion. Many people thought the payments would reduce the refund they would normally get, but that’s not the case. Rather, the relief checks are an advance on a credit that has been added to their 2020 taxes. When people file their 2020 tax returns, they’ll deduct their relief payments from that new credit. (And although the credits are refundable, the money doesn’t have to be paid back if you got a payment but your 2020 income turns out to be too high.)

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If you didn’t get a payment but you qualify based on your 2020 income, you’ll get the credit when you file.

Pitfalls of unequal will distributions

Dear Liz: You’ve written that when writing their wills, parents should be careful about leaving unequal distributions to their children. What wasn’t mentioned was that a person could have a “good” child and a “bad” one. The “bad one” has never done a thing for the parent, such as inviting her to the child’s home at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and only visits the parent in the summer when the parent just happens to live at the beach. The “good” one is very attentive and visits the parent even in winter, and so on. What is your thinking in inheritance in this case?

Answer: It’s your money, and there’s no one right way to divide an estate. However, it’s disturbing that your assessment of your children seems to be based solely on how much attention you get.

It’s possible one child acts more selfishly or thoughtlessly than the other. It’s also possible that you are difficult to please, and one child understandably limits the time she spends trying to do so.

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Social Security spousal benefits count as yours

Dear Liz: My husband is 69 and taking his Social Security benefit. I will be 62 in November and would like to ask if I can take half of his amount when I turn 62 and let mine grow until my full retirement age of 66 and 8 months? Or am I only able to collect mine at 62?

Answer: You can’t take a spousal benefit and let your own retirement benefit grow. When you apply for Social Security, you will be “deemed” to be applying for both benefits and you’ll get the larger of the two. You won’t be able to switch later. Applying at 62 means accepting a permanently reduced benefit. Some people don’t have much choice, but if you can continue working or tap other retirement funds, waiting is usually the better option.

Picking your estate’s executor

Dear Liz: One issue in a recent column was about a sibling who did not follow the will. As executor, the sibling took two thirds of the estate instead of the will’s specification of half.

This is why, when my wife and I had our estate plan created, we told the attorney that none of the beneficiaries should be the executor of our wills and none should be a trustee of our trusts. Indeed, our trusts — which own almost our entire estate — cannot have the spouse, child, parent or in-law of a beneficiary as a trustee.

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Answer: Yours is certainly one solution, if you can find the appropriate people to serve. But naming an heir as executor or trustee doesn’t have to be a disaster, as long as you name the right person — someone who is honest, dependable and able to serve with integrity.

Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.


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