Second stimulus check deadline is almost here. Will your payment arrive before phase 2?


The IRS is sending $600 stimulus checks now, but if you don’t get yours by next week, you may have to wait.


Angela Lang/CNET

Mark your mental calendar for Friday, Jan. 15. That’s when the IRS and US Treasury run smack into a deadline to send out second stimulus checks to everyone who’s eligible. After that, anyone who’s left without a stimulus payment will still have a chance to get it, but in a far less organized, far more haphazard way that ties into your 2020 taxes (a complication if you don’t normally file taxes).

It’s good news that there’s already a method in place to claim your missing money with the IRS — it’s called the Recovery Rebate Credit — but there’s much we don’t know about how it works and what the complications could be. What we do know is that the IRS has sent out most of the second stimulus checks through direct deposit and in the mail as a paper check or an EIP debit card. We also know that there may be as much as 20% of the payments still to make.

We also know the IRS is working through a major electronic-transfer problem, which could so there’s a chance that the delivery of your payment could slip. After confirming you qualify for a $600 check, the next step is to work out which payment group the IRS has sorted you into. This will give you an idea of where to look for your check and what to do if you don’t receive it soon. Read on for details below, and here’s where things stand with a third stimulus check for up to $2,000. This story is updated regularly with new information.

The situations with direct deposit transfers

As of last week, the IRS had reportedly sent out about 80% of its $600 stimulus payments through direct deposit, giving a clear advantage to people who receive an electronic transfer of funds. Direct deposit is a quicker, more efficient mode of delivery than a mailed check, which means the IRS can process many more people faster. (Here’s how to track your second stimulus check online.)

There are two things to know, however. First, some people have reported problems with checks being sent to the wrong bank account, which means millions of people haven’t been able to receive their stimulus payments that way. And the IRS’ tracking tool won’t let you sign up for or change your direct deposit information this time around. 

If the IRS does not already have your banking information, you’ll have no choice but to wait for the mail. If there’s a problem with your payment, you’ll need to file a claim during tax time.

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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know



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Paper checks: On the way, but two things to know

Paper checks are on their way, at a much faster clip than the first time around — here’s how you can track your stimulus check to your mailbox. There are still two major limitations you need to know. First, the US Treasury can process between 5 million and 7 million paper stimulus checks a week in addition to checks for other federal programs, according to a Government Accountability Office report from June, which means some people will have to wait.

Second, there’s that same Jan. 15 that affects all the payments. So anyone who doesn’t receive their check around the middle of the month will have to claim it this year during tax season. If you’ve recently moved, be sure to tell the IRS and USPS so you can get your stimulus check, and your confirmation letter from the IRS (you’ll need this if you have to file a claim.)

After the cutoff, the timing of your stimulus check delivery then becomes a matter of how soon you submit your taxes for 2020 and how quickly the IRS will be able to process your return. People who file their returns in February would likely receive their stimulus check money — in the form of a Recovery Rebate Credit — months before people who wait until the April 15 deadline or file an extension.

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When you get your stimulus money could depend on who you are.


Sarah Tew/CNET

8 million EIP cards are going out — will they make it in time?

EIP debit cards are prepaid Visa cards the Treasury may send you instead of a paper check. There are twice as many going out this time compared to the first round — 8 million instead of 4 million, the IRS told CNET in an email — though it isn’t clear how an EIP card helps deliver money faster than a paper check would.

In fact, the IRS said it began sending EIP cards after it started sending paper checks. Overall, the process is quicker this time around. With the first stimulus checks, it took the IRS and Treasury a month to send this type of payment.

If you receive an EIP card in the mail, the envelope will display the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal, but be careful to not toss your mail without carefully checking first (this free tracking tool can help). The same cutoff rules apply to paper checks. If you don’t get yours around Jan. 15, you’ll need to claim it as a Recovery Rebate Credit as part of filing your taxes this year.

Social Security beneficiaries: When your payment could arrive

With the first stimulus payment, many people who receive Social Security disbursements who also had direct deposit information on file with the federal government received checks in the first week, though not always the first day.

For the second check, the IRS will automatically send the money through how you regularly receive your benefits, such as direct deposit, Direct Express card or paper check.

Several complicated issues will delay payments

For the first check, this category includes people who received a check after June, still haven’t received their full stimulus payment or who didn’t know they needed to complete an extra step.

For the second stimulus payment, people who may fall into this category could include those who have a banking issue with direct deposit, people who moved and still need to tell the IRS and USPS and calculation errors, like people whose estimated payment didn’t match up with what the IRS sent. 

It also isn’t clear what would happen if there’s a problem during the Recovery Rebate Credit process and the payment was further delayed. It’s likely the IRS would set a different, later deadline to address clerical errors, like missing stimulus money, and other scenarios. Here are 10 things that could hold up your stimulus check.

What if your check total seems incomplete? What to know about missing money

It isn’t always clear how much money the IRS might owe you in the event of an error. We suggest starting with our second stimulus check calculator or the calculator for the first stimulus check and this introduction to how the IRS tabulates your total sum. If the numbers seem lower than they should be, you might want to investigate further.

See if any of these situations could apply to you: Are you missing $500 allotted for your child dependents, or do you pay or receive child support? Are you a tax nonfiler who may be owed a stimulus check (including older adults and people who receive SSI or SSDI)?

If you’re a US citizen abroad or live in a US territory and didn’t receive a check as expected, you may also need to read up on the rules. And a court ruling has made it possible for millions of people who are incarcerated to get a check, even after the IRS changed its interpretation to exclude this group.



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