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When do you stop waiting and start calling the IRS about your missing coronavirus stimulus check? The IRS isn’t done yet mailing out stimulus checks and has about 35 million (PDF) payments to go for Americans who are eligible to receive one. But if you think something’s gone wrong with your payment, when do you contact the IRS?
In the best-case (and quite probable) scenario, your money could still be on its way. But if you’re starting to get worried — or you’re counting on the money — there are legitimate reasons why your check could be delayed.
And if you’re concerned you might miss the check’s delivery, or mistake it for junk mail, you can sign up for a free USPS service that will send you a picture of every piece of mail coming your way — including your stimulus payment.
This story updates frequently. You can find the current status on a possible second stimulus check here.
Stimulus Checks Helpline
When it’s time to inform the IRS
If you’re still without your economic stimulus payment, here are warning signs that you should contact the IRS right now:
- If the Get My Payment tracking tool reports the IRS made your payment weeks ago, and you haven’t received it.
- If you think you accidentally threw your prepaid card or check in the trash (see below).
- If you received a confirmation letter from the IRS that your payment was sent, but you didn’t get the funds.
- If you suspect someone stole your check or otherwise defrauded you.
Keep reading for more on these issues, and for phone numbers to call to contact the IRS.
First make absolutely sure you’re eligible for a stimulus check
Before you go any further, just double-check that you meet one of the qualifications for a stimulus payment. The numbers below are based on your 2018 or 2019 taxes (whichever you filed most recently). Specifically, you’ll need to know your AGI, or adjusted gross income, which you can find on your most recent 1040 federal tax form. For more questions about eligibility, like if you don’t normally file taxes, we recommend looking at our guide to the stimulus check.
You’re eligible to receive a stimulus check if:
- You are a single US resident and have an AGI under $99,000.
- You file as the head of a household (considered unmarried with at least one dependent) and earn less than $146,500.
- You file jointly without children and earn under $198,000.
- You are the parent of a child aged 16 or younger.
Did you use the IRS tracking tool, Get My Payment?
After you’ve determined you’re eligible, our first suggestion is to visit the IRS’ online tool designed to track the status of a 2020 payment. Generally, it should tell you when your check will be processed and how you’ll receive it (for example, as a paper check in the mail). If this Get My Payment portal doesn’t give you information you understand or says your check is on the way and you haven’t received it, you may need to eventually report the discrepancy to the IRS (more below).
Did you see a ‘Need More Information’ message from Get My Payment?
If the Get My Payment tool gave you a payment date but you still haven’t received your money, the IRS may need more information. Check the Get My Payment tool again, and if it reports “Need More Information,” this could indicate that your check has been returned because the post office was unable to deliver it, an IRS representative told CNET.
After you see the “Need More Information” message, the online tool will let you enter your banking information to receive your payment straight to your bank account. The IRS said If you don’t provide your bank account information, the agency will hold your payment till it receives a current mailing address. Head to the IRS change-address page for how to update your address with the IRS.
Did you accidentally throw your check or prepaid card away?
Four million people will receive their stimulus money on a prepaid debit card called the Economic Impact Payment Card, instead of a paper check. The EIP card arrives in a plain envelope, the IRS said, with “Money Network Cardholder Services” as the sender.
Some people, taking it for junk mail, may have mistakenly thrown these letters away. If you’ve misplaced or thrown away your card, the EIP card service has an FAQ on what to do if your card is lost or stolen. You can also call 800-240-8100 to request a replacement. It’s free, according to a spokesperson for the Treasury Department. To request a new card, press option 2 when prompted.
However, the EIP card website says, “Your Card will be deactivated to prevent anyone from using it and a new replacement Card will be ordered. Fees may apply.”
We recommend calling the above number for a lost or stolen card and speaking to a representative.
Could the IRS be waiting for you to file a form?
If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return or receive government benefits, the IRS should automatically send your check without you having to do anything.
If, however, you’re a US citizen or permanent resident, had a gross income in 2019 under $12,200 — or $24,400 as a married couple — and didn’t file a return for 2018 or 2019, you may need to give the IRS a bit of information before it can process your payment. Head to the Non-Filers site and see if the IRS needs something from you.
The nonfilers tool will be available till Oct. 15, the IRS told CNET, and people who register for a payment using the tool before then will receive their check by the end of the year.
Did the IRS send you a confirmation letter, but you haven’t received your check?
A handful of CNET readers report that the IRS sent them a letter confirming their payment but that they’ve not received their check.
“Last week I got a letter in the mail saying that I received my payment. But, no, I have not,” a CNET reader reported after getting the confirmation letter the IRS sends out 15 days after it sends the payment.
We asked the IRS how it’ll handle payments it reports have been sent but that people say are missing, and will update this story with the agency’s response.
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Could the IRS have sent your check to a closed account?
Your check may have bounced back to the IRS if the agency tried to send your payment to a now-closed bank account or to a temporary prepaid debit card a tax preparer set up for you. If your payment was returned to the IRS, the agency will mail your check to the current address it has on file for you.
Could the federal government have intercepted your payment?
If you owe child support, the IRS can redirect your payment to cover past-due support. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send you a notice if this happens.
Did you get only part of the amount you think you’re owed?
A different, but related, issue could be a change in your income in 2020. In some cases, the IRS may owe you more money than you received if the income figure it used to calculate your payment from your tax returns in 2018 or 2019 is less in 2020.
Likewise, if you now have a new dependent, such as a child, who isn’t reflected on your tax returns, you may be owed more money. In either case, the IRS said, you can claim the additional amount on your 2020 tax return when you file next year. We recommend keeping a detailed record so you don’t forget.
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Did someone steal it from your mailbox or otherwise defraud you?
Though it’s uncommon, you may believe you’ve been scammed out of your payment or had it stolen. The Federal Trade Commission has a website where you can report a stolen stimulus check. We’ve asked the IRS what other recourse you have if this situation applies to you, and we’ll update this article when we hear back.
How to contact the IRS to ask about your stimulus check
If you do reach out to the IRS over the phone, it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time for the call. We wouldn’t be surprised if call volumes are up, or if conversations take some time. It’s also a smart idea to gather your information in front of you, like a copy of your most recent tax ID and the letter that the IRS sent, if you received one.
Within 15 days after it sends out your payment, the IRS should mail you a letter confirming the payment. At the bottom of the letter is a number you can call for more information: 800-919-9835.
In May, the IRS added 3,500 telephone representatives to help with potential problems regarding payments. The IRS help number is 800-829-1040.
We’ve reached out to the IRS for more information about how to prepare for a call to a representative.
If you’re seeking additional personal finance information, we have suggestions for how to spend the stimulus money, how the coronavirus may affect your rent payment and other ways to get financial relief during the pandemic.