The Moneyist: ‘I was punished for being responsible. I filed my 2019 taxes early — and received almost no stimulus check’

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Dear Moneyist,

In 2018, I made about $155,000 with my wife. In 2019, I got a promotion and our combined annual income was $198,000. I filed my taxes early as I am very responsible, and now I found out that, had I had not filed my 2019 taxes, we would have received a combined $2,400 versus the $200 we just received. I am in the odd and, perhaps, very unlikely situation in which the government screwed me for being conscientious, and filing my taxes early. I was punished for being responsible. Is there anything I can do? I find this very unjust, and poorly thought out.


Dear John,

I don’t disagree with the facts in your letter. I do disagree your interpretation of those facts.

You are correct that you would have received a far larger stimulus check had you not filed your 2019 taxes early. The legislation was rushed through Congress and, while it’s certainly not perfect and some Democratic lawmakers say the CARES Act gives more support to corporations than individuals, it’s still a sum of money that could mean the difference between paying the rent and putting food on the table and paying electricity bills, and not paying them.

The Internal Revenue Service is sending $1,200 to individuals with annual adjusted gross income below $75,000 and $2,400 to married couples filing taxes jointly who earn under $150,000, plus $500 per qualifying child. The payments begin to shrink above those levels. It’s certainly frustrating for people like you who are just above those thresholds and will receive less or no money from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. Contrary to your take on this, I would not call it unjust.

The Moneyist: ‘My son got a $1,200 stimulus payment he wasn’t entitled to. Is there any way to take back my 2019 IRS return?’ Answers to your stimulus check questions (Part 1)

There must be a line drawn in the sand, just like the line that says once you earn over a certain threshold, you pay more income tax on that amount than someone who earns less. It would be a less equitable CARES Act if the money simply stopped after $150,000 for a married couple who file jointly. Attempting to control things that are no longer out of our reach can make us feel angry and seek to blame others — in this case, the government. It’s a natural, if flawed, reaction.

There are a lot of people who are crying foul. For instance, there’s growing concern among some Americans — especially those who are most in need of the checks and already have bills piling up — that debt collectors will garnish or swipe their checks before they can put the money toward rent, or utility and food bills. Members of ACA International, the association of credit and collection professionals, said that members will endeavor to work “diligently” to help consumers.

Also see:Can you alter your 2019 taxes in order to qualify for the stimulus check? ‘In 2019, tax-law changes made it advantageous for me to claim my oldest as a dependent. I now regret doing that’

Someone with no outstanding debts and a mountain of bills might argue that they are more deserving of a $1,200 payment, or even more. For every person who does not qualify for the largest stimulus check, there will be another who says, “Why not me?” You did not receive a large Economic Impact Payment because you filed your taxes early. But if you peel that back further: You did not receive a large stimulus check because you and your wife earned far more than $150,000 last year.

There are people who are desperate for that $1,200. Spare a thought for them, instead.

Coronavirus update: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that New York City was likely past the peak of COVID-19 cases. Worldwide, there were 2,402,798 million cases and 165,154 fatalities, as of Sunday evening. Nearly 243,000 of the 758,720 confirmed cases in the U.S. were in New York state. But New York City remains the national epicenter with at least 14,451 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at

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