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If you claimed dependents on your 2019 tax return, you should’ve received at least $500 in the first round of stimulus checks.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If you claim a dependent on your taxes, you might receive more money in a second stimulus check than you did in the first, if a bill is approved in Congress. There are now three different proposals for a new stimulus bill that all expand the definition of a dependent in a way that’s sure to bring your family a larger sum, so long as you’re eligible for a new check (when and if it happens).

According to the latest proposal under consideration, a $1.8 trillion White House effort, the total for child dependents could rise from $500 to as high as $1,000 in a second round. Two other proposals wanted to bring $500 to dependents of any age, including an older relative who lives with you or a college student who doesn’t make enough money to qualify for a stimulus check of their own.

Who counts as a “dependent” versus “child dependent” belong to two different categories. Millions of young people didn’t get any stimulus money in the first round because of a legal definition based on tax law.

Read on for everything you need to know about your dependents when it comes to stimulus payments, and the most you could get. And here are all of the most important stimulus check facts to know. We update this story with new information on an ongoing basis.

How exactly does the IRS define a dependent?

In terms of tax law, a dependent can fall into two categories: a qualifying child or a qualifying relative. They don’t need to be children, or directly related to you, but they do have to

If you were one of the millions of workers laid off in the coronavirus pandemic and you stashed money in a workplace dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) for 2020, you might not have to lose the money you contributed but didn’t spend down yet for child care expenses.

“We’re hearing a lot of employee outcry,” says Judith Wethall, an employee benefits lawyer with McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago. 

But here’s a secret: A pre-Covid 19 law might mean you don’t have to forfeit the money you stashed away in your dependent care FSA at work if you’ve been laid off. It’s called the “termination spend down provision.” Here’s how to ask your employer about it.

First, a refresher on the basic rules. If your employer offers a dependent care FSA, once a year, usually in the late fall, you decide how much of your salary you want funneled into the FSA account on a pre-tax basis for the next year. By contributing to the FSA, you save money because you don’t pay income taxes on the amount of your pay that goes into the account. The maximum amount you can contribute, set by your employer, is typically $5,000 a year. It goes into your account on a per paycheck basis.. Once you have money built up in the account and you have child care expenses, you can reimburse yourself from the account: You submit the receipts to pull money out to cover the expenses. If you don’t incur expenses that year, you forfeit the money.

The problem people are facing this year is that the coronavirus pandemic upended child care arrangements. Day care centers were closed. Summer day camps were cancelled.  

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