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What Is the IRS Timeline for Sending Stimulus Checks?

Non-filers including low-wage workers and homeless have until Oct. 15 to register online for a payment

Treasury checks for coronavirus relief; Closeup view against green background

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En español | If you're checking your mailbox or bank account for your coronavirus stimulus payment several times a day, you're not alone: Some Americans still haven’t received their money, either.

As of June 3, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says it had delivered approximately 159 million stimulus payments to individuals worth $267 billion. Of the 159 million, 120 million were made by direct deposit, 35 million by paper check and 4 million by prepaid debit card.

While the IRS never divulged its exact schedule for sending stimulus payments to all eligible Americans, an estimated timeline was released in mid-April by the Ways & Means Committee, the chief tax-writing committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The IRS declined to confirm the accuracy of the timeline. (We asked.)

Here’s the latest on delivery of stimulus payments, based on the estimated timeline and information released by the IRS.


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The week of April 13

Taxpayers with direct deposit information for their bank accounts on file with the IRS were the early bird beneficiaries of stimulus payments. The week of April 13, the IRS started to send 80 million stimulus payments to eligible Americans via direct deposit. The first wave of recipients had filed federal tax returns for 2018 or 2019 that included their direct deposit information. This initial round included Social Security beneficiaries who filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019.

The week of April 20

Beginning the week of April 20, the IRS started making additional rounds of weekly payments by direct deposit to people who provided direct deposit information on IRS.gov. The IRS also began issuing paper checks on a weekly basis to individuals who have not provided direct deposit information but for whom the IRS has a mailing address. The checks were being issued to the people with the lowest incomes first.

End of April

At the end of April, adult Social Security retirement, survivor and disability insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019 started to receive their payments if they receive their benefits via direct deposit. (Nearly 99 percent of Social Security beneficiaries use direct deposit.)

Early May

The Treasury Department announced that many adult Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients would receive their payments by early May, in the same way they receive their normal benefits.

If, for some reason, your bank account information was incorrect — if you've changed banks, for instance — the IRS will send you a paper check instead. Weekly payments will continue until all eligible people get their payments, according to the Ways & Means timeline.

Late May

The IRS says it will accelerate the issuance of millions of remaining stimulus payments by paper check in late May. The IRS also started issuing stimulus payments, both electronically and by paper check, to approximately 1.4 million SSI recipients and 10.4 million Social Security beneficiaries whose monthly benefits are managed on their behalf by representative payees.

In addition, the IRS announced it will mail out stimulus payments in the form of prepaid debit cards rather than paper checks to approximately 4 million eligible taxpayers who didn’t have bank account information on file.

June

The IRS says it will continue to issue stimulus payments by paper check in June. In addition, the Social Security Administration (SSA) says beneficiaries living in American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands could begin receiving their stimulus payments in early June. According to SSA, the tax authority in each U.S. territory, rather than the IRS, will send out the stimulus payment to its residents based on information provided to territories by the IRS.

October 15

This is the deadline set by the IRS to use the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov to register for a stimulus payment in 2020. Low-income workers, the homeless and others who don’t normally file tax returns and also don’t receive federal benefits might be eligible for a stimulus payment. However, since the IRS doesn’t have information about these individuals to determine eligibility – and can’t readily get the information from another federal agency such as SSA – these individuals need to enter their personal information and bank account, if available, on the IRS website to request a stimulus payment. Individuals required to file tax returns shouldn’t use the Non-Filers tool. Once the October 15 deadline passes, a tax return for 2020 would need to be filed next year to claim a missed stimulus payment.

What if I don't get my stimulus payment?

Start by checking the IRS Get My Payment web tool for determining whether your payment has been issued. The IRS only updates the tool once a day; you won't get anything but frustration by checking several times a day.

If you're concerned the check was lost in the mail or the direct deposit was misdirected, the IRS says it will mail a letter to your address 15 days after a payment was issued. If you receive the letter but never received a payment (or the payment was in the wrong amount), the IRS lists a toll-free phone number to call: 800-919-9835. Initially there was no option to speak to a live representative, but on May 18 the IRS announced that it was starting to add 3,500 phone representatives to answer callers’ common questions about stimulus payments.

If you're not required to file a tax return but you think you're owed a stimulus payment, enter your personal information into the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov.

And if you are required to file a tax return, file one for 2019 so the IRS can determine if you're eligible based on your 2019 income.

Finally, keep in mind that some people simply aren't eligible for stimulus payments because, for example, they make too much money, are claimed as dependents on someone else's tax return, or they don't have a valid Social Security number.

If you do get a stimulus check in the mail, examine it carefully. Fraudsters are always looking for ways to make a buck off of imitations. The Secret Service, which investigates counterfeiting as well as protects top officials, has distributed photos and descriptions of genuine stimulus checks.

Because the stimulus program has generated many questions, the IRS has an extremely helpful set of answers to frequently asked questions. It’s updated frequently, too. Among the newest information:

  • The IRS may have sent your stimulus check to an account you don’t recognize. This could be because you chose to have a refund anticipation loan, or because you had your refund loaded onto a debit card provided by your tax preparer. In some cases, your stimulus check may have gone to the bank account associated with those refund settlement products, as the IRS calls them. If so, the bank will reject the stimulus payment, and the IRS will mail a check to the most recent address it has on file.
  • If you’re getting an error message from the IRS Get My Payment tool, make sure you enter your address in exactly the same way as you entered it on your tax return. If you filed your address as “123 Winesap Street, Appleton, WI,” the tool may reject your entry if you put in “123 Winesap St.”
  • If you think the amount of your stimulus check is incorrect, you can claim the additional amount on your 2020 tax return.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new information.

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