Claiming stimulus payments for US expats

Published on November 3, 2023
by Clark Stott

Clark Stott has been with Expat Tax Online since 2015. Being a dual national based in the UK, Clark has unique experience helping US citizens (and Accidental Americans) become tax compliant via the Streamlined Tax Amnesty program. Clark likes to help Americans in the UK keep their tax situations as simple as possible to avoid harsh IRS treatment.

Ever wondered if you can still get your Economic Impact Payment (EIP), commonly known as a stimulus check, while living abroad? Good news, almost every US citizen and Green Card holder can!

Are U.S. Expatriates Eligible for Stimulus Payments?

Eligibility for stimulus payments is primarily determined by your adjusted gross income (AGI) and your filing status. If you’re single and your AGI is under $75,000, or if you’re married filing jointly with an AGI under $150,000, you’re generally eligible for the full amount. But what happens if you earn more? The stimulus payment starts to phase out.

Other factors come into play, too. Do you have a Social Security number? Are you claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return? These are crucial questions because they directly affect your eligibility. According to the IRS, most eligible people have already received their Economic Impact Payments. However, if you haven’t yet filed your tax return for 2020 or 2021, you still have time to claim your missed payments.

Stimulus payments one and two need to be claimed on your 2020 US federal tax return. Your 2020 tax return must be filed by May 17, 2024, in order to claim.

Stimulus payment three, on the other hand, needs to be claimed on your 2021 US federal tax return. Your 2021 tax return must be filed by April 18, 2025, in order to claim.

How Does the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) Work for Expats?

You might be wondering, “How does this money find its way to me when I’m thousands of miles away?” The IRS uses the direct deposit information from your most recent tax return. If that’s not available, they’ll send a paper check to your last known address.

The amount you receive varies based on factors like your income and the number of dependents you have. As of March 2023, the IRS has issued all first, second, and third Economic Impact Payments. If you didn’t get the full amount for the third payment, you might be eligible to claim a 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2021 federal tax return.

Experiencing the financial landscape as an expat can be challenging, especially when it comes to understanding your eligibility for stimulus payments. Have you considered consulting a tax professional? They can provide expert advice to ensure you’re in full compliance with tax laws and help you make the most of financial opportunities like stimulus payments.

Do I Need to File a U.S. Tax Return to Claim the Stimulus Payment?

Yes, indeed you do. The IRS uses information from your tax return to determine your eligibility for the stimulus payment. If you haven’t filed a tax return for the previous year, you could miss out on your payment.

But what if you’re a non-filer? If you have a low income and aren’t required to file a tax return, you can still claim your stimulus payment, but you’ll need to use the IRS’s Non-Filers tool. Just be aware of the deadlines; the IRS has specific cut-off dates for claiming missed payments.

What if I Haven't Filed a Recent Tax Return as an Expatriate?

Catching up on overdue tax returns is the first step. The IRS uses information from your tax returns to determine eligibility for stimulus payments. If you haven’t filed for the previous year, you could miss out on these financial benefits.

Another avenue is filing an amended return specifically to claim stimulus payments. This is particularly useful if your financial situation has changed, affecting your eligibility for the stimulus.

How Do I Provide My Foreign Address to the IRS for the Stimulus Payment?

Living abroad means you have a foreign address, which can complicate matters when it comes to receiving payments from the U.S. government. So, how do you ensure that your stimulus payment reaches you?

Firstly, updating your address with the IRS is crucial. The IRS will send your stimulus payment to the last address they have on file, so keeping this information up-to-date is essential. Have you recently checked if the IRS has your current address?

Secondly, it’s important to understand address formats and international mail procedures. Incorrectly formatted addresses can lead to delays or even non-delivery of your stimulus payment.

Experiencing U.S. tax laws while living abroad can be exhausting. For more intricate tax matters, it’s often wise to consult a tax professional. They can provide expert advice and ensure you’re making the most of financial opportunities available to you.

Are There Any Exceptions or Special Considerations for Expats Claiming Stimulus Payments?

You might wonder if there are any special rules for expatriates with no fixed abode. The IRS will use the last known address they have on file for you, which could be a P.O. Box or a family member’s address in the U.S. So, what’s the best way to handle this? Keep your address updated with the IRS to ensure you don’t miss out on any payments.

Another intriguing point is the case of U.S. citizens born abroad. These individuals are generally eligible for stimulus payments as long as they have a Social Security number and meet the income requirements. How does this work? Simply put, your birth abroad doesn’t necessarily impact your eligibility for stimulus payments.

What Should I Do If I Missed the First or Second Round of Stimulus Payments?

If you missed the first or second round of stimulus payments, you’re probably wondering what to do next. One option is to claim these missed payments through your tax filing. The IRS allows you to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit for the respective year you missed the payment.

Another avenue to explore is the Economic Impact Payment trace process. This is a way to track your payment if it was issued but never arrived. How do you initiate this? You’ll need to contact the IRS and follow their guidelines for tracing a payment.

How Do I Claim the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC) for Unclaimed Stimulus Payments?

If you’ve missed out on your stimulus payments, the IRS provides a way to claim them through the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC). How do you go about this? You’ll need to calculate the RRC when filing your federal tax return. The IRS uses this information to determine your eligibility and the amount you’re entitled to.

For those who are wondering about the paperwork, you’ll need to file Form 1040 or 1040-SR to claim the RRC. This form includes a line where you can input the calculated credit. It’s a straightforward process, but crucial for claiming any missed stimulus payments.

What if I Received a Stimulus Payment But Didn't Receive the Correct Amount?

Receiving a stimulus payment that doesn’t match your expectations can be unsettling. What should you do in such a scenario? The first step is to identify any discrepancies in the Economic Impact Payment amounts. The IRS has a secure online account where you can view the total of your first, second, and third Economic Impact Payment amounts. This can help you identify any discrepancies.

If you find that the amount is incorrect, you can correct these issues through the Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your federal tax return. This will require accurate calculations, so make sure to use the total amount of the third payment from your online account or Letter 6475 when preparing your tax return. This can reduce errors and avoid delays in processing.

Can Non-Resident Aliens (NRAs) or Green Card Holders Claim Stimulus Payments?

What about non-resident aliens or green card holders? The IRS has specific eligibility criteria for these groups. Generally, green card holders can claim stimulus payments, but non-resident aliens usually cannot. The key factor here is tax residency. If you’re a green card holder, you’re considered a tax resident and are therefore eligible for stimulus payments.

How Does the Child Tax Credit Impact Expatriates with Children?

If you’re an expatriate with children, you might be curious about the Child Tax Credit. Expatriates are generally eligible for this credit, and it can be claimed alongside stimulus payments. How does this benefit you? It provides an additional financial cushion, especially if you have dependents.

The maximum claim for eligible dependents/children are:

  • Stimulus Payment 1: $500
  • Stimulus Payment 2: $600
  • Stimulus Payment 3: $1,400

Handling U.S. tax laws while living abroad can be a daunting task. For more intricate tax matters, it’s often wise to consult a tax professional. They can provide expert advice tailored to your unique situation, ensuring you’re making the most use of your benefits.

The information provided herein is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. While we aim to provide helpful and accurate information, we make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained here or linked to from this material.

Always get professional advice from a US international tax specialist.