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6 Reasons Your Stimulus Check Hasn't Arrived Yet

By Sean Williams - Apr 25, 2020 at 5:06AM

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Tens of millions of Americans are still waiting on their stimulus money -- here's why.

Roughly four weeks ago, history was made. In the wake of an unprecedented pandemic, Congress passed and President Trump signed the largest economic stimulus in history. The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides $500 billion in loans to distressed businesses, nearly $350 billion for small business loans (a figure that was quickly fulfilled by banks) and $260 billion to expand the unemployment program.

But the primary highlight of the CARES Act is the $300 billion set aside for direct stimulus payouts to approximately 140 million American households.

A messy pile of cash and a U.S. Treasury Check next to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Image source: Getty Images.

Who gets a stimulus check?

According to data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), most American taxpayers and senior citizens are eligible for an Economic Impact Payment, as it's officially known. The maximum payout works out to $1,200 per individual taxpayer or $2,400 for married couples filing jointly. Households with qualifying children aged 16 and under can also receive an additional $500 per child. Thus, a married couple with two young children may receive $3,400.

But as you can imagine, there are disqualifying factors -- one of which is high-income levels. Single taxpayers, those who are married and filing jointly, and persons filing as head-of-household won't receive a stimulus check if their adjusted gross income (AGI) for the most recently filed tax year is higher than $99,000, $198,000, and $136,500, respectively. Additionally, reduced payouts are expected for single filers, married couples, and head-of-households with respective AGIs between $75,000 and $99,000, $150,000 and $198,000, and $112,500 and $136,500.

Other disqualifying factors for stimulus money include being claimed as a dependent on a recent federal tax filing (this includes college-age students, as well as senior citizens), or being a non-citizen without a legal pathway to citizenship.

Why hasn't my stimulus money arrived yet?

During the week ended April 17, the first wave of stimulus checks were deposited into an estimated 80 million bank accounts, according to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. But for tens of millions of other American workers, the wait for their stimulus checks continues. If you're still waiting to receive your Economic Impact Payment, here are six possible reasons why your payout has been delayed. 

A visibly concerned couple looking at material on a laptop, while their kids sit in the distance.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. You haven't received a direct-deposit tax refund in recent years

To begin with, the IRS doesn't automatically have taxpayers' bank account information on file. If you've received a federal tax refund in 2018 or 2019 -- the most recent tax filing is being used as the determining factor for stimulus payouts -- then chances are that the IRS has the appropriate information to direct deposit your Economic Impact Payment. But if you've opted to receive a paper check or have owed the federal government money in recent years, they won't have your bank account info on file.

What's more, the IRS can't access bank account information it may have previously used to withdraw money from your bank account. For example, if you've paid a federal tax bill online and provided your bank account number and routing number, the IRS will not be able to access this information to direct deposit your stimulus payout.

In other words, you're potentially waiting for a paper check, which'll be disbursed based on income.

2. The IRS deposited your stimulus check into an old bank account

Another possible reason your stimulus money is a no-show thus far is because the IRS has outdated bank account information on file.

A 2019-released survey from J.D. Power finds that 4% of banking customers switched their banks in 2018. While that's the lowest percentage on record since J.D. Power began keeping track, it still represents millions of Americans moving their money elsewhere. If the IRS has outdated bank information on file for a now-closed account, an attempt to direct deposit your stimulus check will bounce. 

Thankfully, the IRS has a new online tool known as Get My Payment where you can update your bank account info to ensure that the tax agency has the correct information on file. Without this current info, you'll be waiting on a paper check.

A person checking receipts and using a calculator to fill out a paper tax form.

Image source: Getty Images.

3. You didn't earn enough to need to file a tax return in recent years

You may not realize it, but millions of low-income Americans aren't required to file a federal tax return. With standard deductions of $12,200 for single filers and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly in 2019, individuals and couples earning less than this amount needn't file a tax return.

Unfortunately for folks who haven't filed a tax return in recent years due to low income, a little extra legwork is required to receive a stimulus check. Non-filers will need to use an online IRS tool to enter basic information such as their name, Social Security number, date of birth, and bank account information in order to receive a payout. For low-income Americans without a bank account, an address can be provided for a paper check to be mailed.

4. You filed a paper tax return

Who on Earth files a paper tax return these days? More people than you probably realize!

In 2018, the IRS accepted 155,798,000 federal tax returns, 88.72% of which were electronically filed with the tax agency. This means nearly 17.6 million returns received by the agency were in paper form.

Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal. However, the coronavirus pandemic has shut down IRS paper return processing centers for the foreseeable future. Therefore, people who didn't receive direct deposit refunds in 2018 and chose to mail their returns in rather than eFile for the 2019 tax year could be waiting indefinitely for a paper stimulus check. 

President Trump giving remarks from behind the presidential podium.

President Trump giving remarks from behind the presidential podium. Image source: Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian.

5. Adding Trump's name to paper checks has delayed their issuance

Feel free to file this under the "no, I'm being serious category," but low-income Americans with AGIs under $10,000 may see their paper stimulus checks delayed by the IRS for an oddball reason -- namely, to put President Trump's name in the memo section of these checks.

In an interview with Yahoo! News, Chad Hooper, president of the Professional Managers Association, noted that any change to the way Treasury checks are printed typically leads to delays. With paper checks being issued from the bottom up, based on income, these delays could most notably impact the first group of prospective paper check recipients -- those with AGIs of less than $10,000.

It's worth noting that if adding Trump's name to Economic Impact Payments does lead to delays, they'll be short-lived.

6. Your stimulus check went to a temporary account created by a tax-preparation service

Finally, it's possible that your stimulus money hasn't yet arrived because it was deposited into a temporary account created by a tax-preparation service you've used. These accounts typically act as a first landing spot for your tax refund, thereby allowing tax-preparation companies the ability to remove any fees you might owe before forwarding the money onto your bank account or a debit card.

According to CNN, this same error occurred when stimulus payments were sent out in 2008. Approximately 20 million people had their 2008 payouts sent to one of these temporary accounts, which was eventually rectified when they received a paper check. That will likely be the same course of action taken with 2020 coronavirus stimulus payments that wind up in these temporary accounts. 

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