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How to get your coronavirus stimulus check ASAP, according to tax experts

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Millions of Americans may start receiving relief payments of up to $1,200 as part of the government's $2 trillion economic stimulus bill as soon as mid-April, according to new estimates from the Trump administration. Others may have to wait several months for what the IRS is calling their economic impact payment.

Exactly when you'll receive the funds will depend on a few factors, including your income and whether you're set up to get your money by direct deposit or by mail. 

Here are answers to some common questions about the stimulus to help you determine when you'll get your relief payment and tips for speeding up the process, according to tax experts. 

Who will get their stimulus checks first?

How and when you'll receive your payment depends on whether the IRS has your bank information on file from your most recent tax return.

Tax payers who have set up direct deposit will start receiving checks on April 13. Paper checks will be mailed out beginning May 4 to people without direct deposit information on file with the IRS, according to the government's latest estimates.

Since the Treasury Department can only deliver a certain number of checks at a time, the department plans to disperse checks based on income, with lower-income Americans getting paid first. Direct deposits will be processed faster, but your income will still be factored in.

If you've already filed your 2019 tax return and received a tax refund directly deposited into your account, you'll probably be among the first to receive the economic impact payment, says Janet Holtzblatt, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. 

If you expect to receive your 2019 tax refund check in the mail, then you will also receive a relief check in the mail, but probably not until May at the earliest, she says. Recognize, though, that because the office that issues paper checks can process about 5 million checks per week, you may be waiting up to 20 weeks, or nearly 5 months, to receive a payment by mail. 

How to get your stimulus check sooner

If you want to get your economic impact payment quickly,  the best advice "is to file your tax return soon," Holtzblatt says. And opt to have your refund direct deposited so the IRS has your account details. 

If that's difficult or not possible, there is a potential workaround that could still help you speed up the process. The IRS has plans to develop a web-based portal where you can provide your bank's routing number and your account number in order to receive the economic impact payment via direct deposit, Holtzblatt says. But that system isn't expected to be online until late April or early May. 

Use Grow's calculator to figure out how much you could get.

What if I'm not required to file taxes?

The IRS doesn't require everyone to file a tax return. If you're among those Americans who don't need to file, your eligibility for an economic impact payment and the steps you'll need to take to claim it vary.

If you receive Social Security benefits because you're retired or disabled, you may not be required to file taxes. In that case, you probably don't have to do anything to receive your relief payment but you may not get it immediately, Holtzblatt says. The IRS says the payment will automatically be deposited in your bank account (or mailed to you if you don't have an account or receive your Social Security checks in the mail), based on the information the agency already receives from the Social Security Administration.

Americans on Social Security will not be required to file a "simple tax return" to receive a stimulus check from the U.S. government. However, low-income taxpayers, including veterans and individuals with disabilities, who typically don't file taxes for other reasons will be required to file with "simple, but necessary" information to get their payment, Holtzblatt says. That simple return is not yet available. 

If you're behind on tax filings for multiple years for any other reason, try to file as soon as you can. The IRS is encouraging taxpayers to file as quickly as possible to receive the stimulus payment, says Susan Allen, senior manager for tax practice & ethics at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). 

What if my payment is late or doesn't arrive?

It's unlikely that everyone will see their payment in a few weeks, says Holtzblatt. "It's always a challenge to get the systems developed so quickly," and the situation is "made more difficult in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak."

Be on the lookout for a paper notice in the mail that indicates when the payment has been deposited in your account. You should receive a notice no later than 15 days after deposit, Holtzblatt says.

The IRS says not to call but to check its coronavirus information page for updates regarding your economic impact payment. "The IRS has cut back on some of its services and just 'evacuated' most of its workforce in response to the COVID-19 breakout. The evacuated workers are supposed to be working remotely, but no word yet as to how that will affect taxpayer services," Holtzblatt says.

Will I owe income tax on the stimulus money I receive?