No stimulus check: 9 potential payment problems and what to do – CNET

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Third stimulus check delivery is well underway. What does it mean if your payment still hasn’t arrived? And what can you do about it?


Sarah Tew/CNET

At least 30 million more stimulus checks might soon be released, bringing the 127 million total in $1,400 payments to roughly 157 million, if not more. But what if the IRS tracking tool said your stimulus payment should have arrived by now and it hasn’t come, or you got less than you expected? What if it never comes at all? 

March 24 was the cutoff to receive a payment by direct deposit, so from here on out, all stimulus money is coming in the mail as a paper check or EIP debit card. The qualification details aren’t always the same from group to group either and there may be additional details you need to know if you’re an older adult, a younger adult, a nonfiler or someone who receives Social Security benefits, like SSI, SSDI and veteran’s benefits. If you had a baby, claim newly qualified dependents or are part of a mixed-citizenship status family, that could change your scenario, too, especially since tax season complicates the third stimulus check calculations.

Here are some potential holdups to your third stimulus payment, and how you can follow its status all the way to your mailbox. We also have guides on how to claim a missing paymentwhat to do if there’s a problem and what we’ve heard so far about a fourth stimulus check

Your stimulus check was sent to the wrong bank account

The problem: You signed up for direct deposit, but your check didn’t arrive. Why? It’s possible that your stimulus payment went to the wrong bank account. Maybe your account was closed, or an electronic transfer attempt was made for a temporary bank account, like one used on behalf of millions of people who used a tax preparer like Jackson HewittTurboTax and H&R Block. Although this latter issue hasn’t been widely reported, it affected the first and second payments. 

What to do: Reach out to your bank or tax preparer to see if an attempt was made to deposit money to your account. Ask if they have an internal protocol to file a report or follow up with a representative who can help.

What next? If you don’t get a direct deposit by March 24 (the official date), then your stimulus payment will arrive in the mail. Here’s how to track the payment to your mailbox. The IRS is not allowing individuals to register for new direct deposit accounts or correct inaccuracies. If your third stimulus check never arrives, here are all the ways you can try to resolve the issue.

Your signed up for direct deposit on your 2020 taxes

The problem: You filed your 2020 taxes and signed up for direct deposit for the first time or corrected your banking information, but the IRS didn’t transfer stimulus funds into your account by March 24.

Why? It may be that the IRS didn’t process your tax return and information before it sent your third stimulus payment.

What now? Track your 2020 tax return to see what your status is. If your direct deposit doesn’t trickle in a few days past the March 24 due date, you’ll want to keep an eye on the mail for a paper check or EIP debit card. Also use the IRS check tracking tool to see when your stimulus payment is scheduled to send. 

You moved and the IRS doesn’t have your recent address

The problem: You moved in 2020 and the IRS (and maybe USPS) doesn’t know your new address.

Why it matters: If you got direct deposit, but you need to claim additional stimulus make-up money later and you didn’t get the confirmation letter the IRS sends to recipients, you’ll have to jump through more hoops later on. Or, if you’re waiting for your stimulus check in the mail, you might have to keep waiting, if there’s an issue with forwarding.  


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What next? If you think you’re getting a mailed payment, let the IRS and USPS know ASAP what your new mailing address is. If your check won’t be processed right away, you may have enough time. Otherwise, you may need to file for a catch-up payment later in 2021 or even a year from now during tax season in 2022.

Your check is stuck in a USPS delay

The problem: The IRS is currently sending a second batch of 15 million paper checks and 5 million EIP debit cards in the mail. But a delay in the postal service could cause some payments to lag.

What to do: Your best bet is to track your payment online with the IRS and sign up for Informed Delivery with the USPS. This free service scans your mail and lets you track when each envelope or package is delivered. Make sure you know what the paper check or EIP debit card looks like so you don’t accidentally throw it away.

What next? If your check doesn’t arrive after a few weeks, you may want to brush up on your options alerting the IRS. Unlike with the first check, the agency is not welcoming phone calls, but you have some moves, including filing a payment trace.

You got some of your stimulus money, but not your total payment

The problem: You received a stimulus check, but the math doesn’t seem to work out. Are you missing money? It might be that the IRS owes you more money based on your 2020 tax return (including your AGI) but paid you based on 2019 or the latest information it had. Maybe the agency didn’t know about a new dependent, or there was a calculation error.

What to do: Use our stimulus calculator to estimate how much money you might be owed. The IRS tracking tool doesn’t provide that level of information, but the letter the IRS sends you does. If there’s a big difference between the amount you think you should get and the total you did get, it might mean you’ll be able to claim more stimulus money in 2021 or 2022. 

What next? First, keep that letter for your tax records. You’ll need it later. Next, keep alert for new information about how to file for a make-up payment. If the IRS thinks it sent you your total, but you didn’t get a check at all, you may need to file for a payment trace.

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Mail delays with the USPS could hold up the arrival of your stimulus check payment.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Your stimulus check was seized

The problem: Could it be your money was garnished by private debt collectors? The first check was susceptible to seizure of many varieties, including if you owed past-due child support payments. The latter wasn’t true for the second payment, except in cases where recipients didn’t get a check and need to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on their taxes. For the third check, private debt collectors are able to confiscate your stimulus payment.

What to do: If you think there’s been a seizure or a mistake, you’ll need to start by reaching out to your bank or credit union. You may have a small window of time to put a hold on the seizure.

You threw away the envelope containing your payment

The problem: With the first payment, some people reported accidentally throwing out the envelope containing their check, not recognizing that it contained a stimulus payment. 

What to watch for: Pay attention to the mail and don’t assume it’s all junk. We recommend tracking your USPS letters for a heads up on what’s being delivered. For a paper check, watch for a white envelope sent from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The memo field will read “Economic Impact Payment.” 

prepaid EIP debit card will come in a white envelope with a seal of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Once you open the envelope, the card itself will say Visa on the front and haveMetaBank, N.A., the name of the bank, on the back. The envelope will include details on how to activate the Economic Impact Payment.

What next? You can cash the check right away, but the 5 million EIP card recipients will need to activate the card first. The checks will expire after a year.

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If you’ve moved, let the IRS and USPS know.


Angela Lang/CNET

You were the victim of a scam

The problem: You think someone swiped your stimulus check, or stole personal and sensitive information while posing as a government agency contacting you about your direct payment.

What to do: We have a guide for how to guard against and report these attacks. Remember that the IRS is sending a confirmation letter to let you know that it sent you a check and for how much.

You didn’t qualify to receive the third stimulus check this time

The problem: New income limits to your AGI mean that some people who qualified to get the first two payments aren’t eligible to receive the third check. If you get a stimulus check for 2019 for more money than you’re eligible to receive for your 2020 taxes, you don’t need to return the money (in most cases). If your 2020 taxes mean you qualify for more money than you get, you’ll be able to claim a make-up payment.

What to do: Brush up on the stimulus check requirements, including by calculating your stimulus check total. Then, compare this figure to what you actually receive. A new change this time around means that if your income is over the limit, you won’t get a partial check — no matter how many dependents you have.

As you try to discover the status of your stimulus check, here’s what we know about who qualifies, how much you could expect and every tax break or payment you could get in the stimulus bill.

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