A little over five weeks ago, lawmakers passed and President Trump signed into law the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history. The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was constructed out of necessity after the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) shut down nonessential businesses throughout much of the U.S. and put in excess of 26 million people out of work in a period of four weeks.
As you might imagine, the CARES Act is primarily geared at helping businesses make it through a truly unprecedented time. Some $500 billion was set aside for distressed businesses, another $350 billion was directed toward small business loans, and $260 billion was used to expand the unemployment benefits program. But what Americans care about most is the roughly $300 billion allocated toward direct stimulus payouts.
These payouts, officially known as Economic Impact Payments, recently began hitting workers' and seniors' bank accounts via direct deposit. People who qualify for the maximum amount of stimulus money will receive $1,200, with married couples filing jointly eligible for up to $2,400. Qualifying children aged 16 and under can also add $500 per child to what a household or parent receives.
Still waiting on your stimulus check? There may be a good reason for that
Yet the question likely on the minds of tens of millions of Americans at this very moment is, "Where is my stimulus check?"
Though an estimated 175 million people are expected to receive an Economic Impact Payment, recent figures show that only 88 million have thus far received their payouts. The answer as to why tens of millions of Americans still haven't received a stimulus check likely boils down to one of the following 12 scenarios.
1. You made too much money
One of the simplest reasons you haven't received an Economic Impact Payment might be because you made too much money.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is utilizing your most recent federal tax filing to determine your eligibility for a payout (either tax year 2018 or 2019). If you're a single, married, or head-of-household filer with a respective adjusted gross income (AGI) below $75,000, $150,000, and $112,500, you qualify for the maximum Economic Impact Payment. But if your AGI is above $99,000 as a single filer, $198,000 as a married couple, or $136,500 as head-of-household in your most recent filing, you won't receive a dime. Folks with AGIs that fall in between these figures will receive a reduced payout.
2. You're age 17 or older and were claimed as a dependent
Another reason you haven't received any stimulus money could be because you were claimed as a dependent by someone else, such as a parent or family member. While dependents aged 16 and under can add $500 per child to what a household or parent receives, dependents aged 17 and up, which includes senior dependents receiving Social Security, aren't eligible to receive a stimulus check.
3. Your payout went to a temporary account created by a tax-prep service
One of the biggest reasons your stimulus money is delayed might be because you used a tax-preparation service in a previous year. Tax-prep services often set up temporary accounts for their customers that act as a first landing spot for a federal refund or, in this case, an Economic Impact Payment. These temporary accounts allow tax-prep services to remove any fees and then forward the money to a client's bank account.
When stimulus payouts were made in 2008, some 20 million taxpayers had this happen to them, eventually requiring the IRS to issue them paper checks.
4. The IRS has an old bank account on file
Though most Americans are perfectly happy with their bank or credit union, we inevitably witness millions of consumers changing banks every year. If you've changed your bank since you last received a direct deposit tax refund from the federal government, it's possible the IRS has your old bank account information on file.
If there's any concern that this might be the case for you, head to the IRS' "Get my Payment" tool and update your direct deposit information. The Treasury Department would prefer to issue as many direct deposit payouts -- as opposed to paper checks -- as possible.
5. You filed a paper tax return
In 2018, close to 89% of all federal tax returns were filed electronically with the IRS. But more than 17 million taxpayers and/or couples chose to mail in a paper return. The problem is that the IRS has stopped processing paper returns due to COVID-19, and there's no concrete time frame as to when they'll begin processing them again. This could potentially delay the determination of your eligibility for an Economic Impact Payment.
6. You're in arrears on child support
Language in the CARES Act specifically disallows federal and state collectors from seizing your stimulus check, with one lone exception -- if you're in arrears on child support payments. The Treasury Department will be counting on individual states to report people who are late on child support payments, as it plans to withhold up to the entire amount of the stimulus check based on how much an individual owes.
7. Your bank kept your stimulus check
Although it's probably unlikely, it's still possible that your bank seized your Economic Impact Payment as soon as it hit your bank account. While federal and state collection agencies can't touch your coronavirus relief money, that's not the case with private collection agencies, such as a bank. If, for example, you have a negative account balance or a loan in arrears, your bank could use your payout to offset what you owe.
For what it's worth, most big banks have said they won't seize their customers' stimulus checks, and some states have banned private creditors from taking taxpayers' stimulus money. However, you'll want to check with the applicable laws in your state to be certain.
8. A credit collection agency nabbed your Economic Impact Payment
In addition to banks, credit collection agencies may go after your stimulus payment. Millions of Americans have financial judgments currently levied against them, and there may be nothing to stop collection agencies from freezing consumers' bank accounts to get their hands on a $1,200 or $2,400 payout. Again, some states have banned such activity, but you'll want to check with the laws in your state for added clarity.
9. You haven't received a direct-deposit tax refund in a while
Another good reason you haven't received a stimulus check yet is because you don't typically receive a federal refund -- or if you do, you receive a paper check. If the IRS doesn't have your recent direct deposit information on file, it can't quickly get you your stimulus money. As a reminder, paper checks are going to be doled out by the IRS over a 20-week stretch, with some folks not receiving their Economic Impact Payments until mid-September.
10. President Trump wanted his name on stimulus checks
If you're a low-income worker, perhaps some finger-pointing at President Trump is in order. That's because his request to add his name in the memo section of paper stimulus checks has led to delays in the initial distribution of these payouts. Since paper checks are being paid out to the lowest-income workers first, these folks are likely to feel the direct impact of this formatting-change delay.
11. You don't have a Social Security number or a pathway to legal citizenship
While green-card holders with a legal pathway to citizenship in the U.S. are eligible for an Economic Impact Payment, undocumented immigrants with no legal pathway to citizenship are not. Even workers with a taxpayer identification number (i.e., who pay federal taxes) who have no guaranteed path to citizenship or have children born in the U.S. are ineligible to receive a dime.
12. You didn't earn enough to be required to file a tax return in recent years
Lastly, you may not have received your stimulus money yet because you typically don't earn enough to file a federal tax return. For example, if you earned less than the standard deduction amount in 2019 of $12,200 for a single filer or $24,400 for a couple filing jointly, you may not have needed to file a tax return. But without this critical info, the IRS doesn't know to send you an Economic Impact Payment.
For non-filers due to low income, you'll need to head to the IRS' website and enter some basic information to be eligible for a stimulus check.