Over one hundred million Americans have received their stimulus check, but millions more have not received theirs yet or received a check that was less than they expected. There are a number of reasons why your check never arrived or was less than expected, but if you are eligible for a stimulus check then you are still entitled to it even if it takes some time to sort things out. This guide will cover the various reasons why your check may not have arrived or was less than expected and offer steps you can take to get your check if you are eligible for one.
Navigating the IRS "Get My Payment" Portal
A number of problems have been reported with the IRS stimulus check portal, especially during the initial roll out of the website. Most technical issues have been resolved since then, but some people have still had difficulty being able to log in successfully or have received error messages informing them there is something wrong with their submission.
There are two options for checking on the status of your stimulus check and which one you use depends on whether or not you are required to file Federal income taxes.
- Get My Payment: Individuals and married couples who file income taxes jointly are required to use the "Get My Payment" portal to get their stimulus check. Once you click on the "Get My Payment" link you will be directed to a page informing you that the website you are on is for authorized use only. Click "OK" to be directed to a page which asks you to input your Social Security Number, date of birth, street address, and zip code. It is extremely important that you enter your information exactly the way it is on file with the IRS or else you may get an error message or temporarily locked out of the website for 24 hours.
- Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here: Individuals and married couples who aren't required to file Federal income taxes should use the "Non-Filers" portal to get your stimulus check. Government program beneficiaries who are not required to file income taxes, but have a qualifying dependent child residing in their household should also use this portal in order to get the additional $500/qualifying dependent. Non-filers have a deadline of October 15, 2020 to sign up for their stimulus check.
- Payment Status Not Available: One of the most common problems people trying to get their stimulus check run into is getting a "Payment Status Not Available" error message. The most common reasons you will receive this message is because the IRS hasn't finished processing your 2019 tax returns or because your application is missing required information. You can also receive this message because you accidentally used the wrong IRS stimulus check portal.
Why You Might Not Get a Stimulus Check
Some individuals and couples do not qualify for any amount of stimulus money and will not be receiving a stimulus check.
- Income Too High: Individuals who earn over $99,000, heads of households who earn over $136,500, and couples who earn over $198,000 will not receive a stimulus check. These numbers are based off your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).
- Not an "Eligible" Dependent: Dependents aged 17-24 who are claimed on their parents Federal income taxes are ineligible for both the full $1,200 stimulus check and the $500 per dependent. There is no appeals process for anyone who is still claimed as a dependent, but if you fall within this age group and can prove you're not claimed as a dependent then you will be eligible for a stimulus check if you meet the income requirements.
- One or Both Spouses Don't Have a Social Security Number: The stimulus check law only provides checks to individuals and couples that have Social Security Numbers. If one spouse does not have a Social Security number then that household will not qualify for a stimulus check. However, people who fall into this category may file their taxes separately in 2020 and the person with the Social Security Number will be able to request their stimulus money then.
- Incarcerated or in Violation of Parole: Anyone serving jail or prison sentences (after being convicted of a crime), held in a mental health facility after being found guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, or incompetent to stand trial, confined to a halfway house, or in violation of probation or parole is ineligible to receive a stimulus check. If you fall into this category and received one by error then you are required to return the check.
Payment Never Arrived or Wrong Amount
Many individuals and couples thought they qualified for a stimulus check, but never received one or, if they did, the check was less than expected.
- Stimulus Check Never Arrived: If you believe you are entitled to a stimulus check but never received one then there are a number of things you can do to check on the status of your check. The first thing you should do is check the status of your payment on the IRS stimulus check portal. There you will find the date your payment was supposed to be directly deposited into your bank account or when a check was mailed to your address. If your address doesn't match what the IRS has on file then you will need to update your address or call the IRS directly at 800-919-9835. If your banking or direct deposit information doesn't match what the IRS has on file then you should immediately contact your former bank to see what your options are.
- Stimulus Check Was Less Than Expected: The most common reason your stimulus check may be less than expected has to do with tax filing. If you haven't filed your 2019 tax return yet but had direct deposit already set up from your 2018 tax returns then your stimulus check amount would have been based on that amount. So, for example, if you earned more than $75,000 as a single filer or $150,000 as a married couple filing jointly in 2018 and made less in 2019 but haven't filed your 2019 taxes then your stimulus check amount will be based on your 2018 taxes. However, the IRS has said that you will be eligible to claim the additional amount when you file your 2020 taxes.
- Stimulus Check Was More Than Expected: There have been a number of instances where stimulus checks have been more than you expected. If your spouse or family member died before receiving their stimulus check then that money must be returned to the IRS. Only the money for the deceased person must be returned if one spouse survives. Some people have received more than expected because they made less in 2018 than they did in 2019 but hadn't filed their 2019 taxes yet. The IRS has said those people, as of now, do not need to return all or part of their stimulus checks.
- Stimulus Check Went to a Temporary Account Created by a Tax-Prep Agency: Some people who use tax-preparation agencies to file their taxes have had their stimulus checks sent to temporary accounts held by the tax prep agency instead of to their own bank accounts or residence. The IRS has encouraged people who has used a tax-prep agency and hasn't received their stimulus check to contact the company they used or to log onto the Get My Payment portal and update your banking information there.
- Missed Direct Deposit Deadline: The IRS set a deadline of May 13, 2020 to sign up to receive your stimulus check via direct deposit. After that date the only way to receive your stimulus check is via paper check or prepaid debit card.
- Accidentally Threw Away Stimulus Check or Prepaid Debit Card: There have been numerous reports of people accidentally throwing away their stimulus check or debit card. If you think you accidentally threw away your check or prepaid debit card then you should call 800-240-8100 or visit EIPcard.com to request a new one.
- The Additional $500 Per Dependent Didn't Arrive or Was Less Than Expected: The stimulus law provided for an additional $500 per dependent aged 16 and under. Any dependent in your household that is aged 17-24 will not qualify for the additional $500. However, if your dependent child qualifies for the additional $500 but you didn't receive it then you will have to wait to get the additional funds until you file your 2020 taxes next year.
- Divorced Families With Shared Custody of Dependent Children: The additional $500 per qualifying dependent child can only be claimed by one parent per child and that will be based off of 2019 tax filings. So if one parent claims two dependent children and the other parent claims one dependent child on their 2019 taxes then the former will receive an additional $1,000 while the latter will get an additional $500. Parents who filed jointly in 2019 but divorced afterwards will have to negotiate who will receive the additional $500 per child either among themselves or with counsel.
Federal Income Tax Related Issues
There have been a number of roadblocks reported for people who have yet to file their Federal income taxes or who aren't traditionally required to file income taxes.
- Haven't Filed Taxes in 2018 or 2019: If you did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and are unsure if you need to in order to receive a stimulus check then you will need to go visit the IRS's Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) and select "Do I Need to File a Tax Return." You will be asked a number of questions about your income and other basic information and will then be told whether you need to file a tax return in order to receive your stimulus check.
- Aren't Required to File a Tax Return: If you are not required to file a tax return and do not receive any Social Security or any other Federal benefit then you will need to enter some basic information in the "Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here" portal in order to receive your stimulus check.
- Federal Tax Return Has Not Been Processed: If you have filed your 2019 Federal taxes but it has not been processed yet then you will unfortunately have to wait until they are processed before receiving a stimulus check.
- 2018 or 2019 Federal Tax Returns Under Review or Audit: Many Americans have reported that they haven't received their stimulus checks because their Federal tax returns are under IRS audit. To be clear, there is nothing in the stimulus check law that says the IRS must do this, but there is also nothing in the law that prevents them from withholding a stimulus check for individuals and couples under audit. If you are under audit and have not received your stimulus check you can contact a taxpayer advocate, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their services have been drastically cut back and you should expect long wait times.
Life Changes Since Filing 2019 Taxes
A number of life changes since filing your 2019 Federal income taxes could affect the amount of stimulus money you receive or whether you receive any stimulus money at all before filing your 2020 Federal income taxes.
Payments Could Be Partially or Fully Withheld
If you didn't receive the full amount of stimulus money that you were expecting to then it may be for one or more of the reasons below.
Government Program Enrollee Issues
Individuals and married couples enrolled in various government programs are entitled to a stimulus check under the same income caps as people not enrolled in a government program.
- Social Security, Railroad Retirement and Department of Veteran Affairs benefit recipients: Individuals and married couples receiving Social Security retirement, Social Security survivor or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Veterans Affairs beneficiaries, and Railroad Retirement Program enrolles should automatically receive their stimulus checks in the bank account associated with their program. If you have not received your payment yet the IRS encourages you to check your payment status to see if a check has been issued and to request a new one if you didn't receive it. All beneficiaries should have received their checks as of the end of May, 2020.
- Income Caps: Individuals and couples enrolled in any of the above government programs are subject to the same income caps as individuals and couples who aren't enrolled in government programs. For example, if you and your spouse are enrolled in Social Security Retirement but earned more than $198,000 in 2019 then you will not be eligible for a stimulus check.
- Recently Unemployed: If you are unemployed due to COVID-19 (or any other eligible reason) but made more than $99,000 or $198,000 in 2019 then you will unfortunately have to wait until you file your 2020 tax returns to be eligible for a stimulus check.