by Dana George | March 15, 2021
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If you're eligible for a stimulus payment, it will eventually make its way to you. However, you may have to take action first.
President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package into law last Thursday, and by Friday, direct stimulus payments began hitting bank accounts. If you still haven't received your payment after several weeks of waiting, it will likely be due to one of these six reasons:
The address the IRS has on file is the one used on the last tax return you filed. If you've moved and haven't provided the IRS with your new address, the payment will be sent to the one on file. Claim the funds by filing your 2020 return and filling out Line 30 (called "Recovery Rebate Credit). If you're owed a refund, your direct stimulus payment will be added to that amount. If you owe taxes, the IRS will keep your stimulus payment and reduce the amount you owe. For example, if you owe $3,500 in federal taxes but are owed $2,800 in direct stimulus payments, your amount due will be reduced to $700 ($3,500 - $2,800 = $700).
You can also provide the IRS with your new address in one of the following three ways:
If you've changed banks since you filed your last tax return, there's a chance the IRS sent your direct stimulus payment to your previous financial institution. By law, banks must return checks sent to closed accounts back to the IRS. Once the IRS receives the returned check, they will process it for mailing. As long as you live at the address they have on file, your check will make its way to you in a matter of weeks.
If you are not legally required to file a tax return, the IRS does not have the contact information necessary to distribute your stimulus payment. Even if you are not legally required to, file a 2020 tax return. It's your opportunity to claim the funds you are due.
In a "normal" tax year, the IRS says that it takes longer to receive a refund if you file a paper return than it would take if you filed an electronic return. You can expect a refund to be issued in six to eight weeks after the IRS receives a paper return. If you filed electronically instead, the refund would be issued in less than three weeks -- even faster if you also choose direct deposit.
Based on what happened with the first two rounds of stimulus payments, the first recipients were those who had opted for direct deposit the last time they filed a tax return. The next wave of payments were paper checks, sent approximately one week after direct deposits hit bank accounts.
If you've never provided the IRS with direct deposit information, they must mail either a check or a prepaid debit card. If this round of stimulus checks follows the distribution pattern of the first two, direct deposits are made first, followed by paper checks, followed by economic impact payment cards (EIP cards).
If you adopted or gave birth to a child in 2020, it won't impact whether you receive a direct stimulus payment, but that payment is likely to be $1,400 short. Again, filling out Line 30 on your 2020 tax return allows you to claim the funds.
If you are anxiously awaiting your stimulus funds, these last few days or weeks may feel endless. If you are eligible for this third round of direct stimulus payments, you can be confident that it will find its way to you. In the meantime, if your finances have taken a hit from COVID-19, visit our coronavirus hardship loan page to learn if you're eligible for a loan to tide you over.
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