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Stimulus checks and child tax credits: IRS may need your 2020 tax return

Americans with lower incomes typically don't need to file taxes, but the IRS says that information is vital to deliver stimulus checks and tax credits.

The Internal Revenue Service is urging people who don't normally file a tax return to do so for the 2020 tax year to ensure they get their third stimulus check, the upcoming child tax credit advance and other credits they may be due.

Americans who made up to $75,000 in 2020 will get the maximum $1,400 check under the American Rescue Plan. Couples who file taxes jointly and made up to $150,000 will get $2,800. The amount received decreases to zero for individuals who made up to $80,000 and couples who earned $160,000. There's a $1,400 kicker for each dependent in the household.

Those who are homeless, rural poor and others may qualify for the Economic Impact Payments, but the IRS says they may not normally need to file a tax return due to their financial situation. The agency says it needs the information in a 2020 tax return to make sure it can send the correct amount, particularly if they added a dependent last year.

For those people who did not get the first or second stimulus check last year, the IRS has details on how to claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit.

Under the new child tax credit set to begin in July, parents will get an advance on their annual payment. The amount has been increased in 2021 from $2,000 to $3,000 for children 6-17 and $3,600 for children under age 6. Through an online portal that will be set up, parents will have the option of getting the first half in monthly installments from July to December and the rest at tax time or they can get it all at once when they file their taxes next year. The change is aimed at reducing childhood poverty by giving parents the money as they need it, not in a one-time payment.

Again, if a family that doesn't normally file income taxes added a child in 2020, the IRS needs to know that to be sure to send the correct amount.

Some of those who have not filed returns may also be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, but the IRS says it may need to see their 2020 tax return to know.