The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began sending stimulus payments to millions of Americans in mid-April, part of the federal government’s efforts to prop up the economy while many businesses are struggling or shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, calls for payments of up to $1,200 for every American with a Social Security number who isn’t considered a dependent.
The amount each person or family receives in their stimulus check — formally called an Economic Impact Payment — will depend on their financial circumstances. Individuals or heads of household can receive up to $1,200, while married couples filing jointly can receive up to $2,400. But those with higher incomes will receive less stimulus money — individuals who make between $75,000 and $99,000, for instance, will receive less than the full $1,200. And those with incomes above certain limits will not receive a stimulus check at all. Individuals who make more than $99,000, heads of household who make more than $136,500, and married couples filing jointly who make more than $198,000 will not receive a stimulus check. People will also receive $500 per child under the age of 17. (Here’s a helpful calculator for estimating your payout.)
Unlike your tax return, these checks will largely be sent out with no action required on your part. “The vast majority of people won’t have to do anything to get their recovery rebate because the IRS already has their information on file and will automatically send payments to these individuals,” Erica York, an economist at the nonprofit Tax Foundation, says via email.
Some circumstances can disqualify you from receiving a stimulus check. While the CARES Act postponed debt on student loans and back taxes, it didn’t apply to delinquent child support payments. So if you’re behind on child support, the government can garnish your check, USA Today reports. Furthermore, you won’t receive a payment if someone lists you as a dependent on their tax return, or if you don’t have a valid Social Security number — meaning immigrants with green cards or H-1B and H-2A visas can receive payments but non-resident aliens cannot, per NBC News.
Here’s what to know about getting your stimulus check.
When is my stimulus check coming?
That depends on whether you gave the IRS your direct deposit information when you filed your 2018 or 2019 federal tax returns. If you did, the agency will use that information to automatically deposit your stimulus check into your bank account. Keep an eye out for those funds: The IRS said on April 28 that 89.5 million people received payments in the first three weeks of the program. More than 150 million payments will be sent out in total.
If you didn’t provide your direct deposit information with your tax returns, the IRS will send you a paper check in the mail. But that will take longer than direct deposit to reach you. In a statement to TIME on April 16, a Treasury spokesperson said officials expect the first paper checks to “be in the mail early next week,” meaning the week of April 20.
“Paper checks are expected to take longer than direct deposit and likely won’t be sent out all at once, but instead dispersed over a period of several weeks,” York tells TIME. “People who do not have direct deposit information on file with the IRS should expect a delay in receiving their payment.” It could take up to five months for everyone to get their paper checks, she says.
On April 14, The Washington Post reported that the Treasury Department ordered that President Trump’s name be printed on the paper checks. According to the Post, this move may delay their delivery by a few days. In a statement to TIME, a Treasury spokesperson denied this claim, saying that “Economic Impact Payment checks are scheduled to go out on time and exactly as planned — there is absolutely no delay whatsoever.”
The IRS will also send stimulus check recipients a confirmation letter 15 days after the payment was sent, regardless of how it was sent. If you get that letter but haven’t received your payment yet, something may be amiss.
Recipients of Social Security, Railroad Retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) will also automatically receive stimulus payments even if they don’t typically file tax returns. Their automatic payments should begin arriving the week of April 27, the IRS said on April 24.
Recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as well as veterans and their beneficiaries who receive Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefit payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs will also receive their payments automatically. The IRS said on April 24 that SSI and veterans’ benefit recipients “should receive their automatic payments by mid-May.”
How can I get my money faster?
If you didn’t provide your direct deposit information with your taxes but don’t want to wait several weeks or months for your stimulus payment, don’t panic. A free online tool from the IRS called Get My Payment allows people to provide their direct deposit information so they don’t have to wait for their check to arrive in the mail.
But act quickly. The IRS said on May 8 that people have until noon on May 13 to input their direct deposit information into Get My Payment. After the May 13 cutoff the IRS will begin preparing paper checks “that will begin arriving through late May and into June,” according to an IRS statement.
Get My Payment also lets you track the status of your payment and see what type of payment you’ll receive. It’s designed to work on a desktop, phone or tablet, and you don’t need to download it from an app store. To track your payment, you’ll need to provide your name, mailing address used on your tax return and Social Security number. The IRS says the app’s data is updated once a day.
Be careful when entering your information — you can’t change your bank account info after a payment has been scheduled to be delivered, the Treasury Department said in a press release. It’s also wise to be on the lookout for any suspicious emails, calls or texts seeking your personal info, as it’s likely that scammers will try to take advantage of the stimulus check system to steal people’s personal information.
Why does the IRS app say “Payment Status Not Available?”
The IRS says there are multiple scenarios that may cause the Get My Payment app to display a “payment status is not available” message. If you’re not eligible for a payment or haven’t filed your 2018 or 2019 tax returns, you may receive that message. That error message may also show up if you only recently filed a tax return, or provided your information through a portal for people who don’t usually file taxes (more on that portal below.) The IRS says your payment status will be updated when it finishes processing your information.
The IRS said there’s also a possibility that the system doesn’t have your data. “We’re working on adding more data to allow more people to use it,” the agency says on its FAQ page. The IRS told TIME it encourages people to regularly check their status and said it will eventually be updated. The app’s data is updated once a day.
According to The Verge, “payment status not available” also appears if you input your information incorrectly, so be careful when typing in your Social Security number, birthday and address.
Some people have been sharing tips to fight formatting issues. For example, some have found that the system only works if they input their street address in capital letters. Others say it only worked if they excluded the number sign before their apartment.
NBC News reports that many people have complained about long wait times or the app crashing as they try to access their information. The IRS said in its April 15 statement that it’s “actively monitoring site volume; if site volume gets too high, users are sent to an online ‘waiting room’ for a brief wait until space becomes available, much like private sector online sites.”
When asked on April 16 if people were receiving “payment status not available” messages because of technical glitches, the IRS directed TIME to the above statement.
On April 26, the IRS announced that it had made “significant enhancements” to Get My Payment to “deliver an improved and smoother experience for Americans eligible to receive Economic Impact Payments.” The IRS said that it “adjusted several items” related to the tool, which will “help millions of additional taxpayers with new or expanded information and access to adding direct deposit information.”
When asked what specific improvements were made, the IRS told TIME on April 28 there had been previously instances where people had tried to input their direct deposit information into the tool but a glitch had prevented them from accessing the web page. The IRS said that should no longer be happening. The IRS also said it fixed a glitch that had prevented people from inputting their information if they neither received a refund nor owed money during the previous tax year.
If you receive the message “please try again later,” that means your account has been locked and you can try logging in again in 24 hours, the IRS’ website says. You can get locked out if the information you enter doesn’t match the IRS’s records multiple times.
I haven’t filed my 2019 tax return yet. What should I do?
As long as you filed a 2018 tax return, you should be fine. The IRS says that it will use your 2018 tax filings to make its calculations on your Economic Impact Payment. If you filed a 2019 tax return, the IRS will use that information instead.
If you haven’t filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return — and were not exempt from doing so — file those returns electronically as soon as you can. For most Americans, filing a return from those tax years is the only way you can receive a stimulus payment. (Here’s the IRS’s guide on whether you need to file a tax return.)
If you filed your 2018 tax returns with a mailing address or direct deposit information that’s no longer accurate, the only way to update that information is by filing your 2019 tax returns electronically with the updated information. If the IRS already has incorrect information about you, you can’t use the Get My Payment app to update it.
The IRS has extended the deadline for filing 2019 taxes to July 15, 2020.
I filed my 2019 tax return, but didn’t use direct deposit. What should I do?
That’s fine — the IRS will send you a paper check in the mail. But if you’d rather not wait, you can input your bank’s direct deposit information into the IRS’s Get My Payment tool to receive your stimulus check via direct deposit. Do it sooner rather than later, as a Treasury spokesperson said officials expect the first paper checks to “be in the mail early next week,” meaning the week of April 20.
What if I need to change my bank account information since I filed?
The Get My Payment tool doesn’t allow people to change their bank account information already on file with the IRS, in order “to help protect against potential fraud,” the IRS website says. The Get My Payment tool also does not allow people to update their direct deposit information once their Economic Impact Payment has been scheduled for delivery.
“However, people who did not use direct deposit on their last tax return to receive a refund, or when their direct deposit information was inaccurate and resulted in a refund check, will be able to provide that information and speed their payment with a deposit into their bank account,” the IRS website says.
If the bank account you used on your tax return has since been closed, the IRS says “the bank will reject the deposit and you will be issued your payment to the address we have on file for you.”
If you split your tax refund between multiple accounts, the IRS will send your stimulus payment to the first account you listed on Form 888. “If your direct deposit is rejected, your payment will be mailed to the address we have on file for you,” the IRS says.
If you’ve had to make an electronic payment to the IRS in the past — which includes Direct Debit Installment Agreements — the IRS will not use that account information to send your stimulus payment. Instead, the IRS says you must fill out your direct deposit information through the Get My Payment app or wait for your payment to come in the mail.
What if I need to change my mailing address since I filed?
If you filed a 2019 tax return, the IRS will use the mailing address it has on file from your return. You won’t be able to change it.
If you’ve only filed a 2018 tax return and need to change your mailing address, the IRS recommends filing your 2019 taxes electronically as soon as possible. That’s the only way to let the IRS know your new information.
I don’t typically file a tax return. What can I do?
If you don’t usually file a tax return and are on Social Security, Railroad Retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance, you don’t have to do anything. The IRS will use the information it has on file about you to calculate and send your payment. Those automatic payments should begin arriving next week, the IRS said on April 24.
Recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as well as veterans and their beneficiaries who receive Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefit payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs will also receive their payments automatically. The IRS said on April 24 that SSI and veterans’ benefit recipients “should receive their automatic payments by mid-May.” (Here’s a helpful guide from the Social Security Administration on how people on government benefits can access their payments.)
If you made less than $12,200 in 2019, or $24,400 for married couples, and thus didn’t have to file a federal income tax return, you can still receive a stimulus payment. Visit this IRS page: “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” and input your information. You’ll have to provide your name, mailing address, email address, date of birth and valid Social Security number. You’ll also have to provide the name and Social Security number for each of your dependents. And if you have them, prepare to provide your Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN), a state issued ID and your bank account information. The IRS has a detailed guide on what to expect when you file. The tool is also available in Spanish.
If you receive SSI or veterans’ benefits and don’t usually file taxes but do qualify for the extra $500 per child, you could register your child through the Non-Filers portal until May 5. Those that didn’t make that deadline have to wait until their 2020 tax returns to receive those payments. “Once their $1,200 payment has been issued, they will not be eligible to use the Non-Filer tool to add eligible children,” the IRS added.
Recipients of Social Security and railroad retirement benefits had until noon on April 22 to register their children. If people missed that deadline, they’ll have to wait until their 2020 tax returns to receive their $500.
If you use a Direct Express card, you can use the Non-Filers tool to register your children but “you cannot receive your and your children’s payment on your Direct Express account,” the IRS said on April 24. “You may only select a bank account for direct deposit or leave bank information blank and receive the money by mail.”
I don’t have a bank account. How can I receive my stimulus payment?
If you’re one of the 14.1 million Americans who don’t have a bank account, you’ll still be able to receive a stimulus payment. The IRS will mail your check to the address it has on file for you. However, it may take a while to arrive.
If you log in to the IRS’s online Get My Payment tool with your Social Security number, date of birth and mailing address, you’ll be able to track your payment. However, if you don’t usually file a tax return, the IRS says your data might not be in the system yet.
Individuals without bank accounts could use the paper checks to open up a checking or a savings account. However, as Hasen explains, many people who don’t have bank accounts face multiple barriers to opening one — some lack an ID, or it’s hard to access a physical bank location, especially as many are limiting operations during the coronavirus outbreak. In those cases, people can cash their checks at cash checking businesses — though they may be subject to a fee — or use offerings like Square’s Cash App, which allows for direct deposits without a traditional bank account.
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