Stimulus Update: 7 Rules for Collecting Money Owed by the IRS

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  • There's no Recovery Rebate Credit on 2022 tax returns.
  • To collect, taxpayers must request missed payments via the correct tax year.
  • Taxpayers can learn how many checks the IRS sent by checking their online IRS account.

If the money is yours, why not make the most of it?

While it may be tough to believe, some people still have not received the stimulus checks they were eligible for in 2020 and 2021. It's such an issue that the IRS has published directions for anyone who missed one or more stimulus checks during that period. There are rules, though.

Rule No. 1

According to the IRS, anyone missing the first or second stimulus check can only claim the money by filing a 2020 federal tax return. Those missing the third stimulus check must claim the funds via a 2021 federal tax return.

If you're not sure which check or checks you're missing, these reminders may help:

First round

  • Eligible tax-paying adults received a check of up to $1,200.
  • Eligible dependents under 17 received $500 (a maximum of three dependents could be claimed).
  • The first stimulus checks hit bank accounts nationwide the weekend of April 11 and 12, 2020. Economic Impact Payment (EIP) cards were sent out in late May or early June.

Second round

  • Eligible adults received a direct stimulus payment of up to $600.
  • Dependents aged 16 or under also received $600.
  • Checks were issued between Dec. 29, 2020, and Jan. 15, 2021.

Third round

  • Eligible adults received a check of up to $1,400.
  • Families of eligible dependents received an extra payment of $1,400 per dependent (with no limit on the number of dependents)
  • The first wave of third-round checks arrived by direct deposit on the weekend of March 13 and 14, 2021.

Rule No. 2

If you did not file a tax return for 2020 or 2021, you'll need to file now, even if you're generally not required to file a return.

Rule No. 3

If you did file a return for one or both of those years but did not claim the Recovery Rebate Credit (the credit claimed by those who did not receive their stimulus payment), you must file an amended tax return.

Rule No. 4

Don't assume the IRS will automatically send the money owed. Whether you wrote nothing on the Recovery Rebate Credit line or marked the box with 0, it was treated as a decision not to claim the credit.

Rule No. 5

If the IRS does fix the issue, it's because they suspect you made a mistake. Let's say your household was eligible for a direct stimulus payment of $2,800, but you marked the Recovery Rebate Credit line as $1,400. The fact that you filled out that line indicates that you intended to request the credit. The IRS says it will automatically calculate the correct amount you're owed and reprocess the return.

Rule No. 6

It's still possible to trace a missing payment. You do so by accessing your online IRS account. Once you've logged in, check the amounts on the Tax Records page. It will indicate how much you were sent.

If the IRS site indicates that it issued you a check that has yet to arrive, call the IRS at 1-800-919-9835. Investigating and responding will take the revenue service up to six weeks.

Rule No. 7

You now have until April 15, 2024, to claim the first two checks with a 2020 tax form and until April 15, 2025, to claim the third with a 2021 tax return.

Considering the level of buzz surrounding stimulus payments, the number of people who did not receive what was rightfully theirs is surprising. As late as last fall, the IRS sent letters to more than 9 million taxpayers who appeared to qualify for the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit but still needed to claim it on their tax return.

If you're one of those people, now is your chance. Even if you don't need it to cover bills, the money can help you build an emergency fund, pay down a high-interest debt, or invest in your future.

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