Stimulus Updates and Resources

Third stimulus check issues: Why you may not have gotten your payment yet

"People have to make sure the address that the IRS has is theirs."


Third stimulus checks of up to $1,400 per person, part of the recently passed $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, started showing up in Americans' bank accounts over the weekend. And Wednesday, March 17, is the "official payment date."

Most of the payments were sent by direct deposit to taxpayer bank accounts, and the IRS said it has so far disbursed 90 million payments worth an estimated $242 billion. About 150,000 of them, worth $442 million, have been checks sent through the mail, according to the Treasury Department.

President Joe Biden has said an estimated 85% of Americans will get payments of up to $1,400. People who filed their 2020 or 2019 tax returns and have direct deposit set up with the IRS will be among the first to get one.

But not everyone who is eligible for a stimulus check has gotten their money, and some people who expect checks have gotten an error message on the IRS portal such as "Payment Status Not Available." That error usually means that your payment hasn't been processed yet, the IRS is missing some of your information, or you may not be eligible.

Here are a few common reasons why you may be experiencing issues with your third stimulus check.

You didn't file a recent tax return

The IRS is pushing back the federal tax filing deadline by one month to May 17, according to CNBC. If you haven't filed your 2020 return yet, the IRS will use your 2019 information to calculate your stimulus — unless you haven't filed a return for that year, either.

This could be an issue for people who aren't required to file a tax return. The agency will automatically send checks to those who used the nonfilers tool last year and to recipients of federal benefits such as Social Security.

You moved or changed your bank account 

Nearly 9 million Americans relocated in 2020. If you're among them, it's possible your mailed check could go the wrong place.

This could even be true for those who have filed a 2020 tax return, since it's possible the IRS hasn't fully completed processing it and could default your payment to the address you used in 2019. If you've changed banks since the last stimulus check, you could also be in the same boat.

"People have to make sure the address that the IRS has is theirs," says Timothy Gagnon, an associate professor of accounting at Northeastern University. "If they moved, they better fill out a Change of Address form," which can be found on the agency's website.

If you have a closed bank account on file, the stimulus money will be sent back to the IRS before being reissued to the correct account, or mailed to your current address on file, an agency spokesperson told CNBC Make It.

You filed a paper return

E-filing is faster. "To avoid delays in processing, people should avoid filing paper returns wherever possible," the IRS warned consumers earlier this year.

Now the agency has a backlog of nearly 7 million returns, The Washington Post reports.

That logjam of returns could mean that even if you updated your bank account or address, the agency hasn't necessarily processed that information. 

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You don't qualify for a stimulus payment this time around

You may not have gotten a stimulus check, or received less than you were expecting, because the threshold for who qualifies is different in this third round. The checks are worth up to $1,400 for individuals and up to $2,800 for married couples, plus an additional $1,400 per eligible dependent, with no cap on the number of dependents claimed.

Individuals with up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income will qualify for full payments, as well as heads of household earning up to $112,500 and married couples who file jointly with up to $150,000.

The checks would be reduced for incomes above those thresholds and capped at $80,000 in income for single filers, $120,000 for heads of household, and $160,000 for joint filers.

Check out Grow's stimulus calculator to see what to expect.

Issues with your check? Don't call the IRS

While there are various reasons your funds might be delayed, calling the IRS probably isn't the best approach to take to find out why, experts say. If you try to call, chances are "you are not going to get through or you are going to be on hold forever," says Gagnon. The agency is "getting thousands of calls a day. It's a very hard time to get an answer."

Your best option, he adds: "Keep track of when the IRS says anything or updates its site."

In addition to third stimulus inquiries, taxpayer calls are pouring in about last year's stimulus payments, tax returns, tax credits, and more — all while IRS staff are working through Covid-prompted tax code changes and a significant backlog of tasks built up from a year of the pandemic.

Contacting either financial institutions or the IRS on payment timing will not speed up their arrival.

"You've got an IRS right now trying to adjust its program [because of tax changes], so that's going to throw a wrench in the system," says Gagnon.

On top of that, "you've got a system hit with Covid and people out just like any other company. Getting answers is not easy," he adds. "It is going to take patience and perseverance."

The IRS agrees. "No action is needed by most taxpayers; the payments will be automatic and similar to how people received the first and second round of Economic Impact Payments in 2020," the agency said in a statement last week. "Because these payments are automatic for most eligible people, contacting either financial institutions or the IRS on payment timing will not speed up their arrival."

The IRS received 7.5 million more calls in January than it did during a year earlier, a more than 300% increase in demand, according to statistics cited by Politico. In fact, only about 1 of every 11 calls are being answered, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins told the publication.

There are some instances when you do need to call the IRS, such as if the agency's site directs you to. If you do call, have some personal information handy. You'll need to verify your identity with your Social Security number, individual taxpayer identification number, and other relevant data.

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