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World & Nation

No, you don’t have to repay your coronavirus stimulus check

False claims have appeared on social media that recipients of coronavirus relief checks will have to repay the money to the government.
False claims have appeared on social media that recipients of coronavirus relief checks will have to repay the money to the government.
(Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)

Videos and online reports claiming that millions of Americans will have to repay the coronavirus relief checks they receive from the federal government are not true.

Under the $2.2-trillion coronavirus economic recovery bill, the government began issuing the one-time payments this week. Most adults who earned up to $75,000 will see a $1,200 payout, while married couples who made up to $150,000 can expect to get $2,400. Parents will receive payments of $500 per child. The checks will be directly deposited into bank accounts or mailed to households, depending on how you’ve filed your tax returns in the past.

In recent days, social media posts have falsely claimed that there’s one catch to this money: that you’ll eventually have to pay it back.

“Next year, you’re automatically going to owe $1,200 come tax season,” one of the videos, viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, falsely claims. The video has also been shared widely on social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

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Now that the financial stimulus is approved, when will people receive money to help with bills, groceries and rent? Our explainer has the answers.

The U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service, which are working to deliver the money to people, confirmed that households will not have to pay back the money in next year’s tax filing.

“This is not an advance and there is absolutely no obligation to pay it back,” Treasury spokeswoman Patricia McLaughlin said in an email.

The confusion on social media appears to have stemmed from language in the economic rescue bill that refers to the checks as an “advance refund” because the money is being given out in the 2020 tax year, before Americans have even filed their tax returns for the year.

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Congress’ coronavirus relief package excludes millions of immigrants who do not have legal status in the U.S. but who work here and pay taxes.

The 2020 tax form has not been printed, but the relief checks will not have any bearing on your income deductions next year, said Eric Smith, a spokesman for the IRS.

The federal government uses information from 2018 or 2019 tax returns — whichever was filed most recently — to determine eligibility for the payouts. Those payments begin to get smaller for adults making more than $75,000 and phase out entirely for those earning more than $99,000. For married couples, the payments get smaller for those earning more than $150,000, falling to zero at $198,000. For heads of household with one child, the benefit starts to decline at $112,500 and falls to zero at $136,500.


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