Though Congress has been in talks about a second round of stimulus payments, millions of Americans are frustrated that they have yet to receive the first. Distributing those pandemic relief checks ― or Economic Impact Payments, as they’re officially known ― has not been a speedy process. In fact, an estimated 30 to 35 million checks still haven’t been sent.
If you’re wondering where your money is and when you’ll get it, here’s what you need to know.
Double-Check That You Qualify For A Check
Given all the buzz surrounding the federal CARES Act, you may have assumed you’re getting a direct payment from Uncle Sam. But that may not be the case.
Stimulus payment eligibility is based on income. If your adjusted gross income is above $99,000 (or $198,000 if married and filing jointly), you don’t qualify for any payment. You also won’t qualify if you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax returns, are a non-resident foreigner, don’t have a valid Social Security number, are married to a noncitizen without a Social Security number with whom you file tax returns jointly, or are currently incarcerated.
You can check your eligibility and the status of your payment by using the Internal Revenue Service’s Get My Payment tool. Note that you need to enter your address exactly as it’s listed on your tax return for the tool to work. You also need to enter the exact refund amount or taxes due from your most recent tax return.
If Get My Payment says your status is not available, it may be because you don’t qualify for a payment.
The IRS Is Still Sending Out The Checks
When the relief payments first started going out in April, Americans who had a valid bank account on file with the IRS received a direct deposit right away. But snags in the system led to delays for others.
For example, some taxpayers who used a major tax preparation service to file last year found that the IRS had temporary bank account information for them that’s no longer valid. Others had outdated information on file, causing payments to go to old bank accounts, while some had their payments intercepted by debt collectors.
As of June 5, the government had delivered nearly 160 million stimulus payments via direct deposit, prepaid card or check, according to the House Committee on Ways and Means. That left as many as 35 million payments yet to be issued.
According to the timeline for sending payments, about 5 million checks will be mailed each week for up to 20 weeks, with those who have the smallest incomes on record prioritized to get payments first. Considering that the first round of paper checks was mailed on April 20, it could take until late August for all checks to be sent.
Among those who are still waiting for payment:
13-18 million taxpayers who filed tax returns but whose income is below the thresholds outlined in the CARES Act
7.5 million Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits recipients who don’t file tax returns
10.7 million taxpayers who aren’t required to file tax returns and who don’t receive federal benefits
Millions of adults who only receive Supplemental Security Income or Veterans Administration benefits and do not file tax returns (the exact number is unknown)
The Ways and Means Committee noted that the Treasury Department should have the necessary information on file to make payments to all these individuals.
However, if you still haven’t received your stimulus payment and you don’t usually file a tax return, you need to enter your information in the IRS’s online non-filer tool (which is separate from Get My Payment) to ensure you get your payment this year. The deadline to enter your information is Oct. 15.
There is also a chance that your latest tax return hasn’t been processed yet. An estimated 10 million pieces of mail still need to be opened and processed by the IRS, including 4.7 million tax returns, some of which may be from first-time filers who qualify for payments. If that includes you, your payment status should be updated once the IRS handles your return.
How To Contact The IRS About A Missing Payment
If the Get My Payment tool indicates that your payment was issued, but you haven’t received it (or are worried it was stolen or accidentally thrown away), you may need to put a trace on it, according to the IRS. Before you do, however, wait at least five days after the direct deposit date indicated by Get My Payment, since it may take some time for your bank to make the deposit available to you. If you’re getting a paper check, wait at least four weeks from the mail date. Wait six weeks if you have a forwarding address on file with your local post office and nine weeks if you have a foreign address.
To perform a trace, you first need to receive a Notice 1444 ― that’s a letter detailing the method and timing of your payment from the government ― or obtain a payment date from the Get My Payment tool. Then, call the IRS at 800-829-1954 to use the automated system or to speak with an agent. Note that the IRS is experiencing extremely high call volumes, so you may have to wait a long time to speak with someone in person.
If you’re married and filed your tax return jointly, you won’t be able to set up a trace via the automated system. Instead, submit a Form 3911 to get the process started for a replacement check. Both spouses need to sign the form.
If your original check wasn’t cashed, you’ll receive a replacement check once the original is canceled. If you cash the new check and later find the original, you must return the original immediately.
If your original check was cashed (presumably by somebody else), the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service will provide you with a claim package that you need to complete. The bureau will then review your claim and determine whether they can issue you a replacement check. That process can take up to six weeks to complete.
Note that the Get My Payment tool can’t be used to initiate a trace ― you must follow the steps outlined above.
And the good news is that if you received the wrong amount, or you didn’t qualify for a check based on your 2018 or 2019 tax information but do qualify based on your 2020 taxes, this will be reconciled when you file next year.