Missing stimulus check: You may need to request a payment trace from the IRS

If your second stimulus check never arrived, it might be time to request a Payment Trace from the IRS.


Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s been nearly four weeks since the IRS and US Treasury started sending the second stimulus checks and if you didn’t receive the money you qualify for, there are a handful of reasons why you may be still waiting. While we can recommend using this IRS tool as a starting point to get a little more information, you may need to take further action to hunt down your check.

One way is to claim your missing money on your 2020 tax return next month, as a Recovery Rebate Credit (here’s how). But in some situations, you will need to contact the IRS and request something called a Payment Trace to find your misplaced funds. (Use our stimulus calculator to estimate the amount of money you should have received in your check.) 

Below, we explain what an IRS Payment Trace is, the two scenarios that may require it, rather than a Recovery Rebate Credit and how to get started. In addition, here are stimulus check guides for older adultsyoung adultsSSI and SSDI recipientsnon-US citizens and those living abroad and people who pay or receive child support. Here’s what we know so far about a third stimulus check, including all the extra ways it could bring you a larger payment, when it could get approved and how much money your household could get. This story has been updated.

Scenario 1: The IRS online app says the agency sent your money, but you’re still waiting  

If your second stimulus check is missing, you should first go to the free IRS online payment tracking tool called Get My Payment to find out its status. We have full instructions on how to use the Get My Payment tool and the different messages you might see here. You’ll need to plug in your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, date of birth, street address and ZIP or postal code. 

The portal will show your payment status, if your check has been scheduled to send, and the payment method (direct deposit or by mail) and date. You might also see a different message or an error. (By the way, here’s why you might want to register for direct deposit with the IRS if you haven’t already.)

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You’ll need to request a Payment Trace if the Get May Payment portal shows that your payment was issued, but you haven’t received it within these timeframes: 

  • 5 days since the deposit date in Get my Payment and your bank says they haven’t received it
  • 4 weeks since it was mailed by check to a standard address
  • 6 weeks since it was mailed and you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office
  • 9 weeks since it was mailed and you have a foreign address

Scenario 2: The IRS verified your payment in a letter, but the money never arrived

About 15 days after the IRS sends your second stimulus check (by either direct depositpaper check or EIP card ), you should get a letter from the agency confirming your payment and giving you a way to get in touch to report any problems. If you received this letter — also called Notice 1444 Your Economic Impact Payment — but you never received your payment, you’ll need to request a Payment Trace. Make sure you keep the letter — you’ll need the information to file your claim. (Here’s what to do if you lost the IRS letter about your stimulus check.)

How to start a payment trace with the IRS

To request a Payment Trace, call the IRS at 800-919-9835 or mail or fax a completed Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund. Find out where to mail or fax that form for your state on the IRS website

To complete Form 3911, the IRS provides the following instructions: 

  1. Write “EIP” on the top of the form (EIP stands for Economic Impact Payment)
  2. Complete the form answering all refund questions as they relate to your payment
  3. When completing item 7 under Section 1:
  • Check the box for “Individual” as the Type of return.
  • Enter “2020” as the Tax Period.
  • Do not write anything for the Date Filed.
  • Sign the form. If you file married filing joint, both spouses must sign the form.

You should not mail Form 3911 if you’ve already requested a trace by phone. And you should not request a Payment Trace to determine if you were eligible to get a check, or to confirm the amount you should have received, the IRS said. 

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Track down your first or second stimulus check now.


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How does the IRS process your Payment Trace claim? 

The IRS will do the following to process your claim, according to its website: 

  • If you didn’t cash the check, the IRS will issue a replacement. If you discover the original check among your belongings, you’re expected to return it as soon as possible.
  • If you did cash the refund check, expect a claim package from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which will include a copy of the cashed check. Then, follow the included instructions. The Bureau will review your claim and the signature on the canceled check before deciding if they’ll issue a replacement. This is presumably to guard against stimulus check fraud.

When could you expect to receive your missing stimulus check?

You should get a response from the IRS about six weeks after the agency receives your request for a Payment Trace, according to its website. However, this could be delayed due to limited staffing. 

For more on stimulus checks, check out all the stimulus checks facts and details to know, and three good reasons to set up direct deposit with the IRS.



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