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Didn't Get Your Second Stimulus Check? Here's What You Can Do About It

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® - Jan 19, 2021 at 6:07AM

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The procedure to get your money is a little different the second time around.

Were you entitled to a $600 stimulus check but haven't received your money? The IRS only had until Jan. 15 to directly deposit payments or mail checks, and that deadline has come and gone. If you haven't received your second stimulus payment yet, chances are that it isn't going to appear in your bank account or mailbox at this point.

The good news is that if you qualify for a second stimulus check but didn't receive one, you can still get your money. The bad news is that, unlike the first stimulus check issued in the Spring, there's no way to directly request a payment.

In this article, we'll discuss why your payment might not have arrived, how you can still get your payment, and what might happen to you if the incoming Biden administration follows through on its plan to add another $1,400 to the recent stimulus payments.

Money on top of a US Treasury check.

Image source: Getty Images.

Can you still claim your second stimulus check?

Yes, you can still claim your second stimulus check, assuming that you're qualified based on your adjusted gross income and other factors. While you can't directly and immediately request it from the IRS, you can claim it when you file your 2020 tax return in the next few months.

For the 2020 tax year (the return you're going to file in 2021), there's a newly created tax credit called the Recovery Rebate Credit. Technically speaking, if you received the first and/or second stimulus payment already, you got an advance on this credit.

On the other hand, if you didn't receive the latest Economic Impact Payment (the formal name for the stimulus payments), you can use the Recovery Rebate Credit to claim it when you file your tax return. It's also worth noting that if you didn't receive the first stimulus payment but were entitled to one, you can claim one as a Recovery Rebate Credit, as well.

One big distinction is that the Recovery Rebate Credit is based on your 2020 adjusted gross income, not your 2018 or 2019 AGI, which the IRS used to determine who got paid automatically. This can be a big help to the most affected households. For example, if you earned too much in 2019 to qualify for the first two stimulus payments but lost your job in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession, you may be able to collect both rounds of stimulus payments when you file your 2020 taxes.

Why can't I claim my second stimulus check now?

With the first round of stimulus checks, qualified individuals who were waiting for their payment could request their money right away through an IRS portal. One commonly asked question is why this isn't the case this time around.

With the first stimulus check, the Treasury Department and IRS sent payments automatically to taxpayers for whom bank account information was on file and created an online portal that allowed everyone else to register for and receive the payment. People could still claim and receive their initial $1,200 stimulus check months after most of the payments had been given out.

There's a good reason the government decided to do this. At the time the first stimulus check was granted as part of the CARES Act, the majority of Americans had already filed their tax returns, so there wasn't any other mechanism in place to get deserving U.S. residents their money.

With the second stimulus check, it just so happens that 2020 tax season is right around the corner. In fact, the IRS recently announced that tax season will start on Feb. 12, so the best course of action if you're entitled to a second stimulus payment but didn't get it would be to file your 2020 tax return as soon as possible on or after that date -- making sure to claim your Recovery Rebate Credit, of course.

What if another stimulus payment is approved?

The incoming Biden administration plans to include a $2,000 stimulus payment as part of its COVID-19 relief legislation, which would be structured as a $1,400 addition to the latest round of payments. But what if you didn't get the second round of payments? Would these be claimable as Recovery Rebate Credits, as well? Unfortunately, we don't know the details of how an additional stimulus payment would work at this time.

The good news is that Biden has indicated that his administration plans to move quickly with its initial relief efforts, which include adding $1,400 to the latest round of stimulus payments. While we don't have many details about how those payments could be delivered and whether you could claim them as a Recovery Rebate Credit if you don't automatically receive them, there'll likely be some clarification sooner rather than later.

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