It’s Not Too Late to Claim Your Stimulus Payment: Eligibility Rules for People Previously Claimed as Dependents 

By Ashley Burnside  

During the COVID-19 public health crisis, Congress passed legislation that provided qualifying residents with three rounds of economic impact payments (commonly referred to as “stimulus payments.”) These one-time payments helped individuals afford essentials during the pandemic. But some people had a harder time accessing them due to confusing eligibility rules.  

If you were claimed by someone else as a dependent in 2020, but not in 2021, you can be eligible for the third stimulus payment of $1,400—even if someone received a payment on your behalf. But if you’re eligible, you’ll need to take action to get the payment. (You can learn more about the 2021 stimulus payment here.) Read on for a breakdown of some of the basic rules you need to know. 

You can still file taxes to claim your payment  

The 2021 tax filing deadline passed on April 18, 2022. However, if you aren’t legally required to file a tax return, you can submit a return now (after the filing deadline) without facing a penalty. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) typically allows people to file their returns within three years to claim a refund. If you don’t usually file a tax return, you can complete a simplified tax return to claim your 2021 stimulus payment using the Code for America simplified filing portal. This tool is available in both English and Spanish, and you don’t need any tax documents to complete the form. 

If you are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, or had taxes withheld from your earnings in 2021, you will need to file a full 2021 return to claim those funds. If you did file a 2021 tax return, but didn’t claim the 2021 stimulus payment, you will need to file an amended return to get it. You can file an amended return within three years after you filed the original return.  

Eligibility is tied to whether or not you’re considered a “dependent” 

You can claim the 2021 stimulus payment if you aren’t able to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s 2021 tax return and if you meet the other eligibility criteria to receive it. The test is whether you can be claimed as a dependent. So, even if your parent doesn’t claim you on their return, you still can’t claim the stimulus payment if they would have been allowed to claim you. If you were claimed as a dependent on a 2019 or 2020 tax return, you can still claim the 2021 stimulus payment if you were no longer a dependent in 2021. 

You are considered a dependent if all of the following apply to you:  

  • You provided less than half of your own financial support during the tax year; 
  • You lived with a parent or guardian for more than half the year. (There are exceptions to this rule for temporary absences, such as for education, for divorced parents, etc.); and  
  • You are under age 19 at the end of the tax year; or under the age of 24 at the end of the tax year if you are a student; or any age if you are “permanently and totally disabled.”  

 More details about who can be a dependent 

Not all college students will be classified as dependents. Based on these criteria, college students who are financially independent of their parents or guardians, for example, may be eligible for a stimulus payment. You can find more information on who qualifies as a dependent at the IRS website 

You must be related to the person who claims you as a dependent, though you don’t necessarily have to be their child. If you are married and file a joint tax return with your spouse, you can’t be claimed as a dependent by someone else. You also can’t be claimed as a dependent if you claim a dependent on your return.  

If someone incorrectly claimed you as a dependent, you could ask the person to file an amended return to fix the mistake. Or you can contact the IRS and file a paper return claiming yourself. The IRS will then determine who should be claiming you based on the eligibility criteria. 

The stimulus payments were critical tools in helping people make ends meet during the public health crisis. Everyone who is eligible should have access to their payment. The eligibility rules for dependents can be complicated, and it’s critical that everyone has the correct information and tools to get their payment!