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6 Reasons Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check May Never Come

By Christy Bieber – Apr 26, 2020 at 10:02AM

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You might be able to correct some of them so you can get your money.

Coronavirus stimulus checks have started being deposited into bank accounts, and paper checks have begun going out. If you're waiting for the money the CARES Act provides, you may be frustrated if your payment hasn't yet arrived.

For many people, getting the cash is simply a waiting game. While direct deposits are being made quickly, just five million paper checks will go out weekly, so it could take until August or September for them all to arrive. 

But for others, coronavirus funds may never come. Here are six reasons that could happen to you. 

A woman opens an envelope containing lots of cash.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. You earn too much

The CARES Act placed an income limit on who could receive coronavirus stimulus funds.

If you make below $75,000 as a single filer, $112,500 if you file as head-of-household, or $150,000 as a married joint filer, you'll get the full amount of your check. But if you make more, the payment is reduced by $5 per $100 in excess income. 

Checks are worth $1,200 per adult and $500 per qualifying dependent child. So once your income hits $99,000 as a single, $198,000 as a married couple with no kids, or $146,500 if you file as head of household with one child, you won't get any stimulus funds. 

The IRS will use income data from 2018 tax returns, or 2019 returns if you've already filed one. If your income on your most recent return exceeded these thresholds, you won't get a stimulus payment.

However, there is one bright spot for people whose incomes fall in 2020: You won't get a payment now, but you can claim your stimulus money on your 2020 return filed in 2021 -- provided you earn less this year than the maximum eligibility limits.

2. You didn't file a recent tax return

The IRS needs to know you're eligible for the stimulus payment, so it must have your income and dependent details on file. If you didn't file a tax return in 2018 or 2019, the IRS won't have that and thus won't send you a payment.

However, you can go online to complete a simple form that's been created for non-filers to provide their information. If you complete it and show you're eligible, you'll be able to receive the stimulus money. 

Most Social Security recipients and recipients of railroad benefits won't have to do that, though, because the IRS can get their details from the 1099s issued for these retirement benefits.

3. You just started getting Social Security or railroad retirement benefits

Although most Social Security and railroad retirement recipients can get their benefits even if they didn't file a 2018 or 2019 return and didn't use the form for non-filers, that's not the case for everyone. 

If you just started getting your retirement benefits in 2020, the IRS won't have information from your benefits provider. You'll be in the same situation as every other non-filer and will need to use the IRS form to let the service know you're entitled to the stimulus money. 

4. You are claimed as a dependent

The CARES Act doesn't provide an extra $500 in funds for adult dependents -- only for children under 17. But it also excludes anyone claimed as a dependent from getting their own stimulus check.

That leaves many Americans with no stimulus money at all -- including millions of college students and disabled Americans. In fact, in 2019, around 12.5 million students under 25 attended college in America, many of whom were claimed as dependents and so will be excluded. 

5. You or your spouse doesn't have a Social Security number

A valid U.S. Social Security number is required to receive stimulus funds. While citizens and green card holders with Social Security numbers can qualify for a payment, those without this form of ID are left out in the cold. 

Unfortunately, that includes taxpayers married to non-citizens. If you file a joint return with someone who uses a taxpayer identification number, you can't get stimulus money for yourself, your spouse, or your children -- even if you and your kids would normally qualify. The only exception to this rule is if either spouse serves in the military.

Some estimates suggest more than 10 million families with mixed immigration status will miss out on stimulus payments as a result of the Social Security number requirement. 

If you haven't yet filed your tax return for 2019 and expect to miss out because your spouse is lacking a Social Security number, you may want to talk with a tax professional about submitting a return as married filing separately -- although this could have other tax consequences

6. The IRS has old information

If the IRS has an outdated bank account or address on file for you, it could end up sending your money to the wrong place.

If your old bank account is closed, the stimulus funds will be returned, and the IRS will send a paper check (eventually) once it's notified. This will go to the address on file from your most recent return. 

If your old bank account is still open, you'll have to deal with the bank to try to access the money. Unfortunately, while the federal government isn't seizing stimulus payments due to unpaid debts, other creditors are. If the old account has been frozen by a collector or has a negative balance due to fees, you could lose some or all of your stimulus funds. 

If your check goes to an old address, it's also on you to try to track it down, so be sure your mail is forwarding with the USPS if you've moved since you filed your most recent return. 

Unfortunately, while you can use the IRS online form to provide bank information if it doesn't have it on file, you cannot update either existing direct deposit information or your address due to the risk of fraud. If the IRS has outdated info, the only way to correct it and make sure you get your check is by filing a 2019 return before your payment is sent.

Correct the problem ASAP if you can

There are lots of reasons you might not get a stimulus check that can still be corrected if you act quickly. If you're able to, complete any required forms on the IRS Economic Impact Page now to claim your share of the money aimed at helping you through this economic and public health crisis.

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