Nearly 2 Million Californians May Have Unclaimed Stimulus Checks

by Dana George | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Sept. 25, 2020

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A woman with a check in hand puts numbers into a calculator

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If you receive a letter from the IRS about a missed stimulus check, here's what it's all about.

An estimated two million Californians may be due money from the first batch of stimulus checks. Over the next week or so, these Californians will be among the millions of Americans who receive notification from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) telling them they appear to be eligible for Economic Impact Payments (EIP). That means the $1,200 per adult and $500 per child promised in the CARES Act, a bipartisan bill to give the economy a much-needed financial boost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Signed into law on March 27, 2020, the bill called for sending checks to most Americans in April.

Who will receive notification?

The people the IRS missed the first time around are mostly low-income taxpayers who did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return. Because Congress wanted to get the funds out as quickly as possible, they relied on the IRS to identify tax-paying families and used their tax returns to determine whether they were eligible for payment.

Married couples with an income below $24,400 and single folks earning below $12,200 are considered low-income, and are the most likely to receive letters. The IRS located those who did not receive checks by going through W-2s and 1099s to identify individuals who earned money, but not enough to file.

Beware of fraudsters

Because fraudsters crawl out from under rocks any time there is an opportunity to scam people, the IRS has posted an official copy of the notification. If you suspect that you or someone you know will receive notification, do not respond to anything that does not come directly from the IRS. For example, if you receive an email from someone saying they work with the IRS and need your private information, ignore it. If someone offers to help you collect your stimulus check for a fee, do not take them up on the offer. You do not need a third-party to help collect your EIP.

According to their official website, here is what the IRS says you should do to claim your EIP:

Those not required to file a 2019 federal tax return: Claim your EIP by visiting IRS.gov/eip by Oct. 15, 2020. Click "Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here." If you have a bank account, enter your routing and account number. The IRS will deposit your funds directly into your bank account. If you don't have a bank account or prefer not to share the information, the IRS will mail you a check.

Those who are required to file a 2019 federal tax return: The fastest way to claim your EIP if you were supposed to file a 2019 tax return but did not is to electronically file the 2019 return right away. Before you file, gather income information, including W-2s and 1099s. Filing electronically is as easy as following prompts and pushing a button to send the return to the IRS.

Those who have already filed a 2019 return: If you have filed but have not received an EIP, you can check its status by visiting IRS.gov/eip and clicking "Get My Payment."

It's best to claim your EIP by Oct. 15. After that, you must wait until you file your next federal tax return to claim the money. According to the IRS, if you don't file a 2019 tax return during the 2020 calendar year, you may be able to claim a recovery rebate credit in 2021 when you file your 2020 taxes.

Not everyone is eligible

It is possible that some letters will go out to people who do not qualify for an EIP. To qualify you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • Have a work-eligible Social Security number
  • Not be eligible to be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return

Although Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump are pushing for another round of stimulus checks, it is unclear whether that money will materialize. In the meantime, be sure to collect what you're owed if you have not yet received your first check.

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