IRS: 9 Million Americans May Have Stimulus Checks Waiting to Be Claimed

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Are you one of the nine million Americans with an unclaimed COVID-19 stimulus check?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was signed into law at the end of March and authorized the majority of Americans to receive COVID-19 stimulus checks worth as much as $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent child under the age of 17.

The IRS has sent out the majority of those payments, but not everyone has received theirs yet.

In fact, the agency tasked with distributing the coronavirus relief has indicated there are around nine million Americans with payments still pending. The IRS has announced it will be sending out letters later this month urging those missing their checks to take swift action as they must act before Oct. 15, 2020 or claiming their payments will become much more difficult.

Who are the nine million Americans missing their stimulus payments?

The nine million Americans who the IRS believes are missing their stimulus payments include people who did not file a tax return for either 2018 or 2019. This group of people largely consists of those whose taxable income is below the threshold at which tax returns must be filed.

These individuals may have missed out on getting a stimulus payment because the IRS used data from 2018 or 2019 tax returns to determine who was owed a stimulus payment and what amount to send out.

The agency did create an online form non-filers could use to submit their payment information so they could get checks without filing tax returns. But not everyone used it. The tax agency also obtained information from the Social Security Administration and VA about those who receive government benefits but who do not file returns.

But even with these efforts, there are still millions of people whose information the IRS simply didn't have. The upcoming letters are the agency's last-ditch attempt to reach them so they can get their payments this year.

What should you do if you didn't get your stimulus check?

If you're one of the millions of Americans who didn't receive your COVID-19 stimulus payment, you should use the IRS online form for non-filers to provide your details, including information on your dependents and your preferred payment information.

You must submit your information using this form by Oct. 15, 2020 in order to get your money this year. If you miss this deadline, you'll be able to get your money only by filing a tax return next year for the 2020 tax year. The IRS won't start accepting returns until the end of January 2021 so there will be a long delay. And filing a tax return solely to obtain your COVID-19 money is much more complicated than just quickly submitting the online form.

You do not have to wait for the IRS to send you a letter instructing you to go online and complete the form if you suspect you may have missed out on your payment. If you didn't file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 and you haven't received your COVID-19 stimulus money, you should go online and do this now.

However, if you do receive a letter, it is not a guarantee of eligibility for a check. To be eligible, you must have a valid Social Security number. All of the dependents you are claiming a stimulus payment for must have a Social Security number as well. In addition, you cannot be claimed as a dependent on anyone else's tax return.

And if your income is above $75,000 as a single filer, $112,500 as a married filer, or $150,000 as a married joint filer, your eligibility for the money will begin to phase out at a rate of $5 per $100 above these income thresholds. However, most people who lose eligibility based on income would not fall into the group who isn't required to file a tax return.

Don't wait to claim your COVID-19 money

If you are among the nine million Americans missing your coronavirus stimulus money, you should take action today to try to claim it. The chances of a second stimulus payment have substantially declined in recent weeks, so this may be your only option to get this form of direct financial relief from the government this year.

And if you are not among those waiting for the first stimulus check and were hoping for a second one, you may find that relief isn't coming. You should explore other options for coronavirus assistance. Or, if you are struggling to make ends meet, you may wish to consider refinancing at today's record low rates to reduce your mortgage payment or using a 0% APR credit card to cover costs in the short-term without owing interest. Just try not to borrow more than is necessary, or more than you can pay back before the promotional 0% interest period ends.

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