It’s been weeks since people started getting coronavirus relief payments. You’ve checked and rechecked your eligibility, just to be sure.
But still, no $1,200 stimulus payment has arrived in your bank account or mailbox. Perhaps $3,400 is riding on this for you, your spouse and your two children, for whom you’re supposed to get $500 each.
Tens of millions of people have already received their payments, but many others are still waiting or wondering. There are a lot of reasons you could be among them, even if the government has removed some of the hurdles it initially set up.
So what do you do if yours hasn’t arrived?
• Try the IRS tool again.
A couple of weeks ago, the IRS introduced its “Get My Payment” tool to help people figure out when and how their money might be arriving. The unveiling didn’t go so well: Many users did not realize how picky the site was about, say, entering an address that precisely matched the one on their most recent tax return.
Also, there were lots of confusing messages indicating that there was no information available at all. Things have improved some since then, and the IRS is updating the information once each day, usually in the middle of the night.
You may need information from recent tax returns at the ready to use the tool, and it doesn’t work for recipients of Supplemental Security Income and Veterans Affairs benefits.
• Make sure you’ve filed the right paperwork.
People who don’t usually file a tax return should give the IRS an assist.
If you haven’t had to file a return because your gross income did not exceed $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples), you still qualify for a payment. But if you’re not a recipient of SSI or VA benefits, you should fill out a special form for nonfilers.
The government is also cross-checking all the Social Security and VA databases and issuing payments to those recipients for whom it does have bank account or similar information, but that process can add time.
• Don’t (necessarily) panic if the payment went to a strange account.
One known quagmire: If you filed taxes in 2018 or 2019 with the help of a third-party company, you may have taken advantage of something called a refund anticipation loan. The company may have set you up with a temporary bank account to process the loan and give you access to that money.
The bank information the IRS has for you may be for that account, which may be closed at this point. That means that when the IRS tries to deposit the stimulus money there, the process will break down. At that point, the IRS is supposed to send a paper check to the address on the most recent tax return or one on file with the U.S. Postal Service.
You should be able to track this whole messy process using the “Get My Payment” service, but it could take several more weeks to get your payment.
• But worry about fraud if this happens.
A lot of money is flowing right now, so people will indeed try to steal it. The IRS knows this, so 15 days after it issues your payment, it is supposed to send confirmation letters to the most recent address it has on file for you.
That letter should explain exactly how the IRS made the payment. If you haven’t received the money yet, that’s the time to worry about whether someone else took it. The letter will contain contact information for the IRS if you need help.
• Speed up delivery this way.
For any number of reasons, the IRS may not have up-to-date information — or any at all — about your address or bank account. For instance, plenty of people don’t trust the IRS with their checking account information for direct deposits or payments. Instead, they pay tax bills with paper checks and collect refunds that way, too.
If you’re in that category but are willing to change your approach, you may be able to get your payment more quickly. If the government hasn’t already started the process of sending you a paper check, it may still be possible to enter your checking account information via the Get My Payment tool to get your money more quickly.
• Check your eligibility again.
People with higher incomes might not get a payment. The $1,200 payment decreases until it stops altogether for a single person earning $99,000 or a married couple who have no dependent children, file their taxes jointly and earn $198,000. And if someone else claimed you as a dependent, you don’t get a check.