6 reasons why you might not have received your stimulus check yet — and what you can do about it


Roughly 80 million Americans received their coronavirus stimulus payments when the first wave of direct deposits went out last week. That's a bit less than half of the estimated 171 million payments expected to go out between now and September. The first round of paper checks is scheduled to go out this week.

Many of those still waiting, especially those who expected to get their money already by way of direct deposit, have struggled to find out when they should expect their money. On the IRS' Get My Payment web portal, many taxpayers have reported receiving the same error message repeatedly: "Payment Status Not Available."

If you've received such a message or otherwise can't figure out why you haven't yet received a direct deposit, here are some possible reasons why and what you might be able to do about it.

Reason 1: Your money was sent to the wrong account

If you've changed banks since you've last filed, the payment might have been routed to the bank you're no longer with.

"Let's say you closed your account, and the most recent information that the IRS has is that it's an old account," says Henry Grzes, lead manager for tax practice and ethics at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. "Those folks are waiting for their checks."

This issue can also apply to people who filed with a preparer that set up a temporary account for that year's refund. If you paid a fee to receive your refund as an advance on a prepaid card, you likely fall into this category.

The good news: Odds are this is just a temporary delay. The direct deposit payment should automatically bounce. Once the Treasury realizes there's been a mistake, it will send you a check instead. Unfortunately, you can't change your account info once Get My Payment says your payment has been processed, even if it was sent to the wrong account.

The first batch of checks is going out this week for filers with an adjusted gross income below $10,000. Another batch is slated to go out next week for filers who reported up to $20,000 in income. Each new weekly batch covers another $10,000 increment, until the last one goes out on September 11.

Reason 2: You're not eligible for a stimulus payment

Not everyone qualifies to receive an economic impact payment. 

The size of your stimulus payment is based on the adjusted gross income, or your income minus certain deductions, that you reported on your most recent taxes, either for 2018 or 2019. How much you earn, your filing status, and how many children you have will be factored into your eligibility. 

If you earned over $99,000 during the last year you filed for, you're not eligible for any payment whatsoever. That also applies if you filed jointly and earned over $198,000 total.

People without Social Security numbers are ineligible for payments, according to the CARES Act. If you're a citizen with a Social Security number but you filed jointly with a spouse that isn't, you're also ineligible. That rule has left many people without payments, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One affected worker, who asked to have his name withheld, tells Grow that his family of five falls into this category, because his wife has no Social Security number. "It really hurts that our government would do this to their own people, especially in a time like this," he says. "There's nurses, doctors, grocery store employees, and people with SSNs that lost their jobs and can't get help."

Reason 3: You haven't gotten a tax refund recently

Many of the consumers that Grow spoke with who are having trouble tracking their stimulus payment share a common detail: They owed money on their latest tax returns. According to the IRS, if you paid your tax bill through direct debit, the agency cannot use that information for your stimulus check.

There's an easy fix, though. You can send your banking information through Get My Payment or wait for a check in the mail.

Reason 4: The IRS only just received your banking information

If want to expedite your payment and you haven't filed your taxes yet, the best thing you can do is "file your tax return soon," Janet Holtzblatt, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, previously told Grow.

While that advice still applies, the IRS says you might still have to wait a little bit if you only recently filed. "Your payment status will be updated when processing is completed," according to an agency statement from last week.

How to spend a stimulus check if you're unemployed

Video by Jason Armesto

Likewise, if you weren't required to file for 2018 or 2019 and so you just submitted your direct deposit information to the IRS, that information still might need to be processed as well.

The IRS recommends that taxpayers check back daily to see if their status has been updated. Since the system is updated nightly, there's no need to check multiple times a day.

Reason 5: A third party, like your bank, took the money to cover outstanding debts

"If you have certain types of debts that are in arrears — and student loans immediately come to mind — or you've got a judgment against you or something like that, there clearly is a way for that money to be withheld from taxpayers," says Grzes.

The CARES Act does not forbid banks, for example, from taking your stimulus payment and putting it towards your outstanding debts before it ever gets to your account. Several states, including Ohio and New York, have moved to stop these collections, but no nationwide policy exists to make sure your payment cannot be seized by certain third parties to which you owe money.

"That wasn't the intent of this program. I mean, people needed the money. The idea is they needed to cover money for food, rent, et cetera," says Grzes. "Those types of garnishments, for lack of a better word, weren't supposed to happen."

How to spend a stimulus check if you're employed

Video by Jason Armesto

Reason 6: Your payment was taken by a scammer

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has also observed scammers posing as the IRS and asking taxpayers for personal information in order to intercept payments. The Identity Theft Resource Center advises people to be wary of unexpected messages, and notes that the IRS never contacts anyone to ask for their banking information.

Kim Cobb, a financial fraud expert and managing director of Texas-based Little GG Capital, previously outlined some clear red flags for Grow. The vast majority of people — and everyone who filed a tax return in 2018 and 2019 — don't have to do anything to receive their stimulus. That means the IRS won't be reaching out to you to about your payment, and anyone who claims to be doing this on behalf the agency should be treated with suspicion.

The official IRS term for your stimulus is "economic impact payment," and no agency communications will use terms like "stimulus check" or anything with the word "coronavirus."

Until you receive a confirmation letter from the IRS, there's no way to get directly in touch with the IRS to ask about your payment, says Erika Safran, a certified financial planner and the founder of Safran Wealth Advisors in New York. "Contacting the IRS may not be ideal at this point," she says. "The IRS is operating with reduced staff and getting a timely call back may be difficult."

The IRS has said it is sending every stimulus recipient a letter in the mail 14 days after it sends payment, whether by check or direct deposit. If the information in that letter relates to a payment that you never received, there should be instructions on it for how to contact the IRS and rectify the situation.

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