Stimulus check problems? Don’t call the IRS. Do this instead

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Sorry, but the IRS does’t want you to call if you have a problem with your stimulus check.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Whatever you do, don’t call the IRS right now. Whether you’re missing your third stimulus check (or your first or second check) or you have any other questions or concerns about tracking your stimulus payment or tax refund or calculating how much you’re owed, estimating when it’ll arrive or determining whether you qualify, the message is clear: “Do not call the IRS. Our phone assistors don’t have information beyond what’s available on IRS.gov.”

The push toward self-service information is a far cry from the first stimulus check delivery, when the IRS announced it would add “3,500 telephone representatives to answer some of the most common questions about Economic Impact Payments.” Stimulus checks are a complex business and a lot of questions can arise, especially since the payments are so tightly tied to tax season, which is ongoing until May 17, the new deadline

So if you can’t call the IRS, what do you do if you got a different payment amount than you expected, are missing money for each of your dependents, had a problem with direct deposit delivery, don’t usually file taxes (also known as nonfilers), had your check mistakenly garnished, never got a payment even though a letter says you did, or have another stimulus check problem? We’ll help explain different approaches you can take including filing for a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return, or requesting something called a Payment Trace from the IRS. Plus, here’s what we know about a fourth stimulus check.

What if there was a direct deposit delivery problem with my bank?

The IRS tracking tool for the third stimulus check does not allow you to add direct deposit information this time. So if you have a problem, what do you do? 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.

First, we suggest you call your bank or tax preparer — it never hurts to cover all your bases to confirm that an attempt was made to deposit money into a closed account or debit card.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to wait and monitor the Get My Payment tracker to keep tabs on your check delivery. We also recommend signing up for a free service to track your check to your mailbox. And by the way, the Treasury has announced that any eligible recipient who hasn’t received a direct payment by March 24 will get a check or EIP card in the mail.


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Think your stimulus payment was garnished?

If you owe child support or other debts, your first check was subject to garnishment. The third check is subject to being seized by private debt collectors, but not the state or federal government. The same goes for the second payment, too, if you’re claiming missing money in a Recovery Rebate Credit. You may receive a notice from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service or your bank if either of these scenarios happens.

In the case of the third check, we recommend calling your bank to confirm the garnishment request from creditors and ask details about how long you have to file a request with a local court to stop the garnishment. If you think money has already been mistakenly seized from the first two checks, you can file a Recovery Rebate Credit as part of your 2020 tax return.

Never got your stimulus check? This is when to take action

About 15 days after the IRS sends out your check, you should receive a letter from the agency confirming the payment and giving you a way to get in touch with the agency to report any problems. When the first round of stimulus checks went out last year, that letter included two hotline phone numbers because thousands of agents were available to help. But with the second and third rounds of checks, the IRS changed its tune. 

Here are three common scenarios that might indicate you need to look into your stimulus payment:

You should also confirm you’re qualified to get the stimulus payment, since not everyone who received previous check is qualified this time

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Looking for missing stimulus check money? You may need to request a payment trace or more.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How to file a Payment Trace to track your missing money

You can request an IRS Payment Trace if you received the confirmation letter from the IRS that your payment was sent (also called Notice 1444), or if the Get My Payment tool shows that your payment was issued but you have not received it within certain timeframes. Check out our guide to when and how to request an IRS Payment Trace here

You can claim missing money on your 2020 taxes

If you’re certain you meet the qualifications to receive the first or second stimulus check, what to do next depends on your situation. 

If you never got your money or a confirmation letter from the IRS that your payment was sent, you will likely have to file for the money. We’ve got full instructions for how to file for your Recovery Rebate Credit here, but basically, you’ll use the 2020 Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR to claim a catch-up payment when you file your taxes before the May 17 deadline

The IRS will provide a Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet to help you work out if you’re missing a payment and for how much. If you’re part of a group that doesn’t usually file taxes (such as older adults, retireesSSDI or SSI recipients and individuals with adjusted gross incomes of less than $12,200), you’ll still need to file this year (we have instructions for nonfilers who need to claim stimulus money on their taxes here). You should also save your IRS letter — Notice 1444 Your Economic Impact Payment — with your 2020 tax records, as you’ll need it to file the claim. 

You can also file for a Recovery Rebate Credit if you didn’t receive the correct amount of money for your child dependents in your first or second check. The same goes for parents of 2020 babies (and next year, parents of 2021 babies will similarly be able to file).

Should you file another form with the IRS if you didn’t get your money?

As was the case with the first and second check, if you filed a 2018, 2019 or 2020 tax return or receive government benefits, the IRS should automatically send your third check without you having to do anything. 

If, however, you’re a nonfiler, 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 have needed to give the IRS a bit of information before it can process your payment. Since the IRS’ Non-Filers tool is now closed, you will likely have to claim that money on your tax return in the form of a Recovery Rebate Credit, described above.

What should you do if you received a confirmation letter from the IRS in the mail, but never got a stimulus payment?

If you received a letter confirming your first, second or third stimulus payment, but not the money, it’s time to contact the IRS. The IRS protocol is to send the letter 15 days after issuing the payment. You will likely have to request a Payment Trace to find your missing money — here’s how to do it

How to use the IRS Get My Payment tracking tool to check your stimulus check status

For the third stimulus check: It’s worth visiting the IRS’ online portal designed to track the status of your 2021 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 the Get My Payment tool doesn’t give you information you can 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 or file for a Recovery Rebate Credit

For the first or second payment: If you can’t find the letter sent by the IRS, you’ll need to create an online profile with the IRS to see your status. For any problems, you may need to issue a payment trace or file for a Recovery Rebate Credit, even if you don’t normally submit a tax return.

Why does the IRS Get My Payment app say it needs more information?

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. Here are more details on how the tracker tool works and what the messages mean.

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Receiving your stimulus check money isn’t always easy.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Why does the IRS Get My Payment app say Payment Status Not Available?

It’s normal for the Get My Payment tool to give you a message that says “Payment Status Not Available” until the payment is scheduled to be issued, according to the IRS. This message doesn’t mean you’re not eligible or that you won’t receive a payment — you’ll likely just have to wait. 

What to do if you accidentally threw your stimulus check away

Millions of people will receive their stimulus money on a prepaid debit card called the Economic Impact Payment Card, instead of a paper check. With the third payment, the EIP card arrives in a white envelope sent from “Economic Impact Payment Card.” The letter will have a US Department of the Treasury seal.

The card has the Visa name on the front and the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A., on the back. Information included with the EIP Card explains that this is your Economic Impact Payment. If you receive an EIP Card, visit EIPcard.com for more information.

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. If you may have lost or thrown away a paper check, read the next section. 

What if your check didn’t include the full amount you were 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 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. Again, that’s where the Recovery Rebate Credit comes in. 

You suspect mail fraud or a scam. Is there anything you can do?

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. If you’re worried about theft, 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.

Can you call the IRS to ask about your missing stimulus check? 

With the first round of checks, the IRS gave out a phone number to call for assistance in the confirmation letter you received 15 days after your payment was sent out. Later in 2020, the IRS requested that people with questions about their stimulus check not call the agency. That’s also the case for the third check in 2021.

If you still want to try, however, you can attempt to dial an earlier IRS help number at 800-829-1040, or call 800-919-9835 to set up a payment trace.

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source: cnet.com