Third stimulus check update: Track your IRS money, plus-up payments and more – CNET

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Many Americans still feel out on a limb waiting for their relief money. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

The IRS sent another $1.8 million in economic impact payments for $3.5 billion last week and has another round of $1,400 stimulus checks queued up this week for those who qualify. If you haven’t received your money and think it’s delayed — or maybe you’re tired of waiting for it to arrive in the mail or be deposited in your account — you can use the IRS tracker to find your payment status. 

Also, the IRS is sending ongoing supplemental “plus-up” payments to those eligible under the American Rescue Plan. That March stimulus package included the enhanced child tax credit for families and a tax exemption for those who received 2020 unemployment benefits during the pandemic. 

We can help you navigate how to report a stimulus check problem or file a payment trace. If you have kids, we can help you calculate how much you’ll receive in child tax credit payments and tell you more about the upcoming IRS portals. We’re also following the debate over a possible fourth stimulus payment. And here’s how to check if an employer owes you back wages. This story is updated frequently.

What you should know about the third stimulus checks and plus-up payments

The IRS has recently sent two batches of payments for more than $3.5 billion: $1.9 billion as paper checks in the mail and another $1.6 billion as direct deposits to bank accounts. These batches also included 900,000 payments for $1.9 billion to eligible individuals the IRS didn’t have information for and who recently filed a tax return, along with two more rounds of plus-up payments for $1.6 billion.

What are plus-up stimulus payments? Depending on which year’s tax form the IRS used when it did the math on your third payment, the IRS may have calculated the amount of the payment using an older tax form instead of your 2020 filing. If this is your situation, once the IRS receives your 2020 tax return and calculates your third payment again, you could be due more money based on information from your current filing — or on other factors if you don’t usually file.

The IRS said it’s automatically sending these plus-up stimulus payments if it needs to square up the amount it owes you, but to double-check the math, you may want to confirm how much money you should expect this stimulus round, and then track your payment.

How to use the IRS tracking tool to find your payment

With the IRS Get My Payment tracker tool, you can get a daily update on the status of your payment. The online app can also alert you with a message if there’s a problem with your payment that you may need to address. It can’t, however, give an update on your plus-up payment status from the IRS.

If you expect your payment to come in the mail, you can use a free tool from the US Postal Service to track your mailed stimulus payment.


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How to report an issue with your third stimulus payment

The IRS doesn’t want you to call if you encounter a problem with the delivery or amount of your stimulus check. So what to do instead? Our guide walks you through how to report stimulus check problems, including checks that never arrived (try filing a payment trace), direct deposit payments that went to the wrong account and other issues.

Stimulus check delivery start and end dates

First direct deposits made March 17 (official)
First paper checks sent Week of March 15
First EIP cards sent Week of March 22
First Social Security, SSI, SSDI payment sent Weekend of April 3, most arriving April 7
First plus-up payments Weekend of April 3
VA benefits for veteran nonfilers Week of April 14
IRS deadline to finish sending checks Dec. 31, 2021 (mandated by the bill)
Last date to receive a check January 2022 (if mailed checks sent late December)
Final claims for missing stimulus money 2021 tax season likely (in 2022)

What might be causing a delay in your stimulus check

Here’s more information on problems you might encounter with your stimulus check.

What to do if your check is less than you anticipated

The IRS isn’t particularly big on communicating how much money it calculates for your stimulus check. You won’t find that figure in the agency’s online tracking tool, but you will see it in the confirmation letter you’ll receive in the mail. (And here’s why you got the payment size you did.) 

So what happens if you use our stimulus check calculator and notice the numbers seem way off, or the IRS letter quotes an amount you didn’t receive? Start by triple-checking your qualifications to make sure you’re eligible for the total you expect. Remember the IRS is automatically sending plus-up payments and that happens after the agency receives your 2020 tax return. If you had a baby or otherwise added a dependent in 2020, you won’t need to file an amended tax form to claim the supplement.

The IRS could open up claims for missing stimulus money before its Dec. 31 deadline to stop sending checks. If not, you might have to wait a year to claim it — when you file your 2021 taxes in 2022 (even if you’re a nonfiler who isn’t typically required to file taxes).

How your 2020 tax return affects your stimulus payment amount

Taxes were due May 17. So how will the IRS figure out how much it owes you? It will calculate your total (you can also do that here) based on the most recent tax filing it’s processed when tabulating the amount of your stimulus check.

If you know your tax return was already processed, your total will likely be based on your 2020 adjusted gross income, not on your 2019 AGI. That presents complications if the difference between the two years disqualifies you from getting a third stimulus check

On the flip side, if the IRS uses your 2019 taxes and you’re owed more money based on your 2020 AGI and dependents, you could get a plus-up payment. If you got more money than you’re owed, you’ll only need to return it to the IRS in some cases. 

Your third stimulus payment could come later this year

Most of the third stimulus check payments have gone out from the IRS and US Department of the Treasury based on the information the IRS has on hand to determine payment amounts. The March stimulus law, however, gives these federal agencies until Dec. 31, 2021, to send out all the third checks. That gives the IRS room to process 2020 tax returns and square up payments for those who are owed plus-up amounts, folks who filed for a 2020 tax extension and other groups, like people who moved or don’t have a fixed address (such as people experiencing homelessness).

If all or part of your stimulus check doesn’t arrive by the end of the year, you’ll need to claim missing money via a 2021 tax return in April 2022, a year from now. This would be similar to the Recovery Rebate Credit for claiming missing money from the first two checks, which is currently in effect for 2020 taxes.

Stimulus check payments made to date

Direct deposit Paper checks EIP Card Direct Express Card Plus-up
No. of payments March 17 to May 12 137.3 million ($331 billion) 21.8 million ($48.4 billion) 5 million ($11 billion) 3.1 million 4.1 million ($7.5 billion)
No. of payments May 19 and 26 900,000 ($1.6 billion) 900,000 ($1.9 billion) 900,000 ($1.6 billion)

What that IRS letter confirming the third check is for

We think you should hold on to that IRS letter signed by President Joe Biden that confirms your stimulus payment, including the amount and how the IRS sent your money. That letter from the IRS — Notice 1444-C — is your proof that the IRS sent a payment in case you don’t actually receive it or if you received less than you qualify for and need to claim the missing amount later. Here’s more on what to do with that IRS letter.

What to do if the IRS owes you money for the previous two stimulus checks

Plus-up payments are going out weekly along with the third round of checks, but they may not be the only money you’re due. For money missing from the first two checks, you need to claim that on your 2020 taxes. We suggest making sure you also know where to find your adjusted gross income. Tax nonfilers may need to be proactive about claiming a new dependent, too.

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Millions could end up receiving a smaller stimulus check than they’re owed.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What SSI, SSDI recipients and veterans should know

Veterans receiving VA benefits and people who get SSDI and SSI benefits are now receiving stimulus checks from the IRS and Treasury. Delivery details should now be available in the Get My Payment tool

You might get your stimulus money by direct deposit to existing Direct Express cards if this is how you normally receive benefits, and if you didn’t file taxes in 2019 or 2020. Otherwise, the money could come in the mail. (Here’s what to look for so you know it’s legit.) The SSA says that Social Security beneficiaries like SSI and SSDI groups will not receive an EIP debit card

If you’re a tax nonfiler and you used the IRS’ Non-Filers tool by November 2020 to submit information, you may have already received your check before other Social Security recipients. 


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Other rules and exceptions to know

Stimulus checks aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation. Here are guides for:

What to know about a fourth stimulus check in 2021

The American Rescue Plan had barely become law in March when lawmakers started pushing for a fourth stimulus check, either in the form of another one-time payment or as recurring payments for the duration of the pandemic. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and 19 other members of the Senate earlier this spring sent a letter to Biden urging him to include recurring direct payments in his upcoming stimulus proposals.

Others in Washington, such as Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, are proposing $1,000 recurring monthly payments to help those who continue to struggle through the pandemic.

Biden has not committed to another round of payments, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration will look to Congress for a proposal for a fourth payment.

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