Stimulus Update: What to Do if a Child Tax Credit Check Is Stolen or Lost

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  • All is not lost if a Child Tax Credit check is lost or stolen.
  • The IRS has made it possible to recover the missing funds.

Here's what you need to do to recover a missing Child Tax Credit payment.

On Dec. 2, a letter carrier in New Jersey was arrested for allegedly stealing federal stimulus checks. In addition to pilfering checks, the letter carrier also stole credit cards and shared them with friends. While he has since been arrested, thefts do happen.

If you're not sure what you would do if a Child Tax Credit check was lost, damaged, or stolen, this article walks you through the recovery process.

IRS rules

If a federally issued check, like a stimulus or Child Tax Credit (CTC) payment, is lost, stolen, or destroyed, the IRS has a plan to help you recover the missing funds. The tricky bit is that you must be patient and follow IRS directions carefully.

Do not panic

If you've received previous Child Tax Credit checks as expected, but now one is missing, there may be several straightforward explanations, including:

  • Change in your living or banking situation. If earlier checks were mailed to your home and you've recently moved, it's a simple matter of the IRS not knowing where to find you. If previous checks were directly deposited in your bank account, have you recently changed banks? If you've moved or changed banks, use the IRS Child Tax Credit Update Portal to let them know. It may be too late to expect a mid-December payment to find its way to your new address or bank, but if the CTC is extended into 2022, you'll want the IRS to have your updated information. In the meantime, remember that you can claim any missed payments when you file your 2021 tax return.
  • Recent updates. If you've recently made updates through the IRS portal, the IRS may still be processing the changes.
  • Slower than usual service. The Postal Service may be taking longer than usual to process and deliver your check. Along the same lines, your bank may be taking longer than expected to process the most recent direct deposit to your account.

First things first

According to the IRS, you can log into the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to view your processed payment history. If the IRS has already sent your check, it will appear there. If not, you know that the IRS is still processing the payment. If the CTC portal indicates that the check has been delivered, check your address and banking information to make sure they are correct.

Note: You'll need to be registered with the IRS to check your payment history through the portal. If you haven't registered yet, it's easy to do from home as long as you have a picture ID and the ability to upload a photo of your ID to your computer.

Allow time

Because there are several reasons your check may be delayed, the IRS requests that you wait before contacting them. Here's how long you should wait before contacting the IRS to request assistance:

How the check is typically delivered Time since IRS sent payment
Direct deposit 5 days
Check mailed to your standard address 4 weeks
Check mailed to a forwarded address 6 weeks
Check mailed to a foreign address 9 weeks

Trace your funds

Once the appropriate amount of time has passed, get a trace started by calling the IRS at (800) 919-9835 or (800) 829-1040. If you'd prefer not to call, fill out IRS Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund. Mail the form to the IRS service center in your area. You will find a list of IRS mailing addresses on this page. Use the pulldown menu to open Q F3. Near the bottom are the addresses you need.

If you request a trace by phone, do not confuse the issue by also mailing Form 3911.

Do not be intimidated by how complicated Form 3911 appears to be. There are four critical issues to keep in mind:

  1. On the top of Form 3911, write "AdvCTCPMT" (for Advanced Child Tax Credit payment). This will let the IRS know which payment type you'd like to trace. Next to AdvCTCPMT, include the month (or months) you're looking for. For example, if you missed the September payment, write AdvCTCPMT-September.
  2. Don't worry about filling out the top section of the form. The IRS will fill it in after conducting a trace. Do fill out sections I, II, and III.
  3. Item 7 (under Section I) asks about type of return. Even though you're not tracing a tax return, check the box for "Individual." Enter "2021" as the tax period, and do not write anything next to "date filed."
  4. If you file taxes jointly, both you and your partner need to sign the form.

Two months down the road

The IRS reports that it can take up to six weeks to conduct a trace and provide a response. If you plan to file 2021 taxes in January, you may be better off requesting the missed payment (or payments) when you file. If you typically file taxes later in the year, contacting the IRS now is your best bet.

It's far more likely that your missing check is a result of an innocent error rather than some shifty-eyed check thief. No matter how the check was lost, destroyed, or stolen, you have a right to your CTC funds. It's just a matter of letting the IRS know how much you're due.

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