Stimulus check lost in the mail? Probably not. 11 things causing a holdup

Where’s your stimulus check? We can help identify some potential errors and problems.

Angela Lang/CNET

If you haven’t received your second stimulus check by now, you probably won’t — at least not without claiming it on your taxes this year. That’s because the IRS had a Jan. 15 deadline to make stimulus payments.

And while millions of qualified recipients didn’t get their payments before the cutoff, there may be other reasons beyond the deadline as to why your check is a no-show, including a banking error or other logistical snag.

Here are some reasons that your second stimulus payment could be delayed, and why the IRS Get My Payment tool isn’t showing you the current status of your check. Here’s how to claim a missing payment and how to contact the IRS — including to request a payment trace. And here’s everything to know about the next stimulus check. This story is frequently updated.

You used TurboTax, Jackson Hewitt, H&R Block or another tax service for your 2019 taxes

With the first checks the IRS and US Treasury sent last year to bank accounts, millions of people who used a tax preparer like TurboTax or H&R Block may have run into trouble receiving their payment via direct deposit

The problem stemmed from the IRS sending payments to temporary bank accounts used by the tax preparation services (this is normal and routine). Those temporary accounts that didn’t line up with actual people were rejected, causing millions of people a delay in receiving their allocated second stimulus money. The IRS has acknowledged the problem and says it’s in the process of fixing it.

Jackson Hewitt, TurboTax and H&R Block alerted their customers that they saw similar issues with the second round of payments. Customers who don’t receive their payment through direct deposit as expected will need to claim their money through the  Recovery Rebate Credit on their federal tax return this year, which will delay their payment delivery by weeks or months. Tax preparation companies are expected to provide affected customers with more detailed information about what to do.


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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


Did you close the bank account the IRS has on file?

If you closed the bank account the government has on file for you, your payment will get returned without ever reaching your hands.

The IRS said it has a handful of ways to find your banking information, including from your 2019 tax return, from the IRS’ Get My Payment app or Non-Filer app if you used it last year, or from another federal agency that uses your banking details to issue benefits, such as the Social Security Administration.

If the IRS has out-of-date bank deposit info for you, the banking institution will return the payment to the government and you’ll need to claim the amount you’re owed on your 2020 tax return as a Recovery Rebate Credit. Note that if your benefits are deposited to a Direct Express card, your second stimulus payment will also be deposited to that card, the IRS said.

If you don’t usually file a tax return, did you need to take an extra step?

The IRS said it will automatically send payments to those who receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits (SSDI) or Railroad Retirement benefits, as well as to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who didn’t file a tax return. With the first checks, however, some of these recipients, loosely termed nonfilers,  needed to take an additional step to claim a check. If you haven’t received your payment by the time tax season starts, the IRS recommends you submit a federal tax return to request your payment.

Are you sure you qualify to receive the second stimulus check?

This might be a painful answer, but if you’ve used the IRS’ Get My Payment tool to check on the status of your payment and you see the message “Payment Status Not Available,” you may not be eligible to receive a stimulus payment. If you want to double-check that, we have a stimulus check calculator to give you a quick idea of whether you qualify for a payment and for how much.

It might be that your adjusted gross income from the previous year is high enough that you don’t qualify. That’s the tax-related income figure the IRS uses as part of the formula to calculate your payment. We have a handy primer on eligibility, or you can check the IRS website directly.

Other specific situations include:


The IRS is sending the next round of checks.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you moved, does the IRS have your new address?

If you moved and didn’t inform the IRS and USPS, your physical stimulus check or EIP card might not find you. Though you may need to ultimately claim your next stimulus check during tax season, you’ll still want to change your address in anticipation of the third stimulus check President-elect Joe Biden is already talking about. 

Could your check have been mistakenly garnished to cover unpaid debts?

With the first check, there were several situations where your check could be diverted to cover certain debts, including to cover past-due child support.

For the second check, Congress did away with many of the situations where creditors and debt collectors could garnish your payment — including to pay overdue child support. But your bank may still be able to use your second check to cover overdraft fees.


If you’ve moved, let the IRS and USPS know.

Angela Lang/CNET

The IRS might not have your current banking information 

For the first check, the IRS used banking information from your 2018 or 2019 tax return to send your payment. For the second check, the IRS said it’s using just your 2019 tax return.

Some tax preparers, however, set up temporary accounts for their clients. If this is the information the IRS had for you with the first check, the agency said, the payment was returned and reprocessed.

Though the IRS hasn’t provided information on how it’ll handle this situation for the second $600 checks, we recommend checking the Get My Payment tool once it’s available again, and, if you don’t receive your payment, requesting it when you file your federal taxes this year.

Make sure any dependents you claimed qualify for $600 each

In general, parents who aren’t married to each other and don’t file a joint return can’t claim a qualifying child as a dependent. The parent who claimed the child on the 2019 tax return may receive the payment. Likewise, dependent college students don’t qualify for a payment

But there’s a loophole that applied to the first stimulus check that allowed non-married parents in child support situations, filing separately, who claimed a dependent in alternate years, to each receive the $500 payment per qualified dependent. Confusing, yes. It isn’t clear if that would also apply to the $600-per-child in the second stimulus check.


Is your stimulus check hung up? Make sure you check out all possible scenarios.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Make sure you didn’t throw away the envelope containing your payment

With the first payment, some people reported accidentally throwing out the envelope containing their check, not recognizing that it contained a stimulus payment. The IRS recommends you watch your mail for a white envelope with the US Department of the Treasury seal. If you receive a prepaid debit card, it’ll have the Visa name on the front of the card and the issuing bank, MetaBank, N.A., on the back.

You could potentially be the victim of a scam

The FBI and IRS warn that scammers are looking to steal your stimulus check. We have a guide for how to guard against and report these attacks. With the first checks, the IRS sent a letter notifying you that the agency had sent your money — with details on whether it came through the mail or straight to your bank — and with information on how to report if the money didn’t arrive. The IRS said it’s sending a similar letter for the second checks.

Again, your check may’ve missed the Jan. 15 deadline

The IRS and Treasury pushed to meet the Jan. 15 deadline to process payments. But with the agencies having to churn out tens of millions of payments in 17 days (from Dec. 29 through Jan. 15, including weekends), we can expect that some stimulus checks didn’t make the final sprint. In that case, you’ll need to claim your missing money through the IRS’ Recovery Rebate Credit during tax season.

As you try to discover the status of your stimulus check, here’s what we know about who qualifies, how much you could expect and how to get an estimate of your payment.

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