Worried your stimulus check is a no-show? What you should know and do first

Still waiting for your stimulus check to arrive? You’re not the only one.

Angela Lang/CNET

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Perhaps the IRS plans to send your payment in the second half of 2020, or maybe you still need to submit missing information before the agency can finish processing your payment. Whatever the case, if you’re worried your stimulus check will never arrive, we have some information that may help calm your concerns and possibly help you track down the potential cause of a delay.

Don’t worry, we’ll also explain how to contact the IRS if your check doesn’t arrive. 

If you’re seeking additional personal finance information, we have suggestions for how to spend the stimulus money, how the coronavirus may affect your rent payment and other ways to get financial relief during the pandemic. And here’s the current status on a possible second stimulus check. This story updates frequently.


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Stimulus Checks Helpline


First make absolutely sure you’re eligible for a stimulus check

Before you go any further, just double-check that you meet one of the qualifications for a stimulus payment. The numbers below are based on your 2018 or 2019 taxes (whichever you filed most recently). Specifically, you’ll need to know your AGI, or adjusted gross income, which you can find on your most recent 1040 federal tax form. For more questions about eligibility, like if you don’t normally file taxes, we recommend looking at our guide to the stimulus check.

You’re eligible to receive a stimulus check if:

  • You are a single US resident and have an AGI under $99,000.
  • You file as the head of a household (considered unmarried with at least one dependent) and earn less than $146,500.
  • You file jointly without children and earn under $198,000.
  • You are the parent of a child aged 16 or younger.

Is your stimulus check inside?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Did you use the IRS tracking tool, Get My Payment?

After determining that you’re eligible, our first suggestion is to visit the IRS’ online tool designed to track the status of a 2020 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 this Get My Payment portal isn’t giving you information you understand or said your check is on the way and you haven’t received it, you may need to eventually report the discrepancy to the IRS (more below). 

Did you see a ‘Need More Information’ message from Get My Payment?

If the Get My Payment tool gave you a payment date but you’ve still not received your money, the IRS may need more information for you. Check the Get My Payment tool again, and if it reports “Need More Information,” it could indicate that your check has been returned because the post office was unable to deliver it, an IRS representative told CNET.

After you see the “Need More Information” message, the online tool will let you enter your banking information to receive your payment straight to your bank account. The IRS said If you don’t provide your bank account information, it will hold your payment till it receives a current mailing address. Head to the IRS change-address page for how to update your address with the IRS.

Did you accidentally throw your check or prepaid card away?


Your stimulus money could arrive as value loaded onto a prepaid debit card that looks like this.

Money Network/Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Four million people will receive their stimulus money on a prepaid debit card called the Economic Impact Payment Card instead of a paper check. The EIP card arrives in a plain envelope, the IRS said, with “Money Network Cardholder Services” as the sender. 

Some people, taking it for junk mail, may have mistakenly thrown these letters away. 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. Press option 2 when prompted to request a new card. 

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.

Could the IRS be waiting for you to file a form?

If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return or receive government benefits, the IRS should automatically send your check without you having to do anything. 

If, however, you’re 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 need to give the IRS a bit of information before it can process your payment. Head to the Non-Filers site and see if the IRS needs something from you.

The non-filers tool will be available till Oct. 15, the IRS told CNET, and anyone who registers for a payment using the tool before then will receive their check by the end of the year.

Did the IRS send you a confirmation letter, but you haven’t received your check?

A handful of CNET readers report the IRS sent them a letter confirming their payment but they’ve not received their check. 

“Last week I got a letter in the mail saying that I received my payment. But, no, I have not,” a CNET reader reported after receiving the confirmation letter the IRS sends out 15 days after it sends the payment. 

We asked the IRS how it will handle payments it reports have been sent but that people say are missing, and will update this story with the agency’s response.

Could the IRS have sent your check to a closed account? 

Your check may have bounced back to the IRS if it 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.

Could the federal government have intercepted your payment?

If you owe child support, the IRS can redirect your payment to cover past-due support. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send you a notice if this happens.

Did you get only part of the amount you think you’re 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 it 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 is not reflected on your tax returns, you may be owed more money. In either case, the IRS said you can claim the additional amount on your 2020 tax return when you file next year. We recommend keeping a detailed record so you don’t forget.


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Did someone steal it from your mailbox or otherwise defraud you?

While 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. We’ve asked the IRS what other recourse you have if this situation applies to you.

How to contact the IRS to ask about your stimulus check

If you do reach out to the IRS over the phone, it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time for the call. We wouldn’t be surprised if call volumes are up, or if conversations take some time. It’s also a smart idea to gather your information in front of you, like a copy of your most recent tax ID and the letter that the IRS sent, if you received one. 

Within 15 days after it sends out your payment, the IRS should mail you a letter confirming the payment. At the bottom of the letter is a number you can call for more information: 800-919-9835.

Earlier this month, the IRS added 3,500 telephone representatives to help with potential problems regarding payments. The IRS help number is 800-829-1040.

We’ve reached out to the IRS for more information about how to prepare for a call to a representative.

As you work to find the status of your money, here’s what we know about a second round of stimulus checks, how best to use your stimulus check and how to avoid scams that target coronavirus fears.

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