Home Investing Still Waiting on 2020 or 2021 Stimulus Checks? How the IRS Plans to Pay You this Tax Season

Still Waiting on 2020 or 2021 Stimulus Checks? How the IRS Plans to Pay You this Tax Season


Some Americans are still waiting on their third stimulus check.

Whether you dutifully filed your 2020 taxes by April 15, 2021, waited until the May 17 deadline extension to file, or pushed things until the most recent Oct. 15 extension, there are a number of factors that could have caused the IRS to overlook you.

According to widespread reporting, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a backlog of about 8 million paper-filed business tax returns by the end of 2020—a 3,230% increase compared to normal times. By July of this year, the IRS had dug its way out and reduced that backlog to under 300,000 returns left to file. But then an estimated 4 million more individual returns came in around the final extension in the middle of October.

Two steps forward, one step back. And that’s not to mention the 2.8 million amended individual tax returns (Forms 1040-X) that sat unprocessed on IRS desks last month. The current processing timeframe for amended tax return forms has been bumped up to 20 weeks, up from the usual 16 weeks, according to the IRS website.

Reasons your IRS checks may still be delayed

Needless to say, millions of taxpayers are still waiting for refunds and/or their $1,400 stimulus checks that were approved back in March 2021. Here are all the reasons why you may still be waiting on money from the IRS:

Updated bank account or address

The IRS used the data already in its systems to send stimulus payments. Payments went automatically to the existing bank accounts for taxpayers with direct deposit information on file. Those who don’t have direct deposit information on file may have gotten a paper check or debit card in the mail.

But it’s not always so simple: People change banks and move homes. Millions of stimulus check payments were therefore sent to erroneous bank accounts from 2020 to 2021. A temporary glitch with the popular H&R Block and TurboTax programs even led to the IRS depositing millions of stimulus checks into random temporary accounts that weren’t actually connected to the original filers’ information.

Using the IRS’ Get My Payment tool is the best way to check and see where your money was sent. If your payment hasn’t been processed yet, you might get a “status not available” message—even if you qualify for a check.

If your check was sent to a now-closed bank, the deposit will bounce back to the IRS. The agency will then send you a paper check or prepaid debit card. Unfortunately, you can’t update your bank information right now due to the IRS’ administrative backlog. The agency is asking all consumers to go through the online (and slow) portals on its website.

‘Plus-up’ payments

Even if someone already received their third stimulus check, they may have qualified to receive an additional check from the IRS. Those whose third stimulus check was based on outdated 2019 information may actually qualify for additional money based on their 2020 tax return. This additional money may come in the form of what the IRS calls “plus-up” payments. More than 9 million “plus-up” payments were sent out this summer, which adds to the total number of potential delays. To check if you qualified for a “plus-up” payment, use the IRS’ “Get My Payment” tool.

Didn’t file taxes in 2019 and 2020

If you didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return and didn’t register with the IRS.gov non-filers tool last year, you can still get an economic impact payment (stimulus check) if you meet the eligibility requirements. File a return and claim the Recovery Rebate Credit to get your money. Also stay on the look out for a letter or notice from the IRS. The agency is encouraging eligible non-filers to file electronically in order to get their stimulus payments as quickly as possible.

Your income changed since 2019

The IRS uses your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your latest tax return to determine your stimulus payment amount. If you filed your 2020 taxes after the third stimulus checks were approved in March 2021, and your income ended up being significantly lower than the year before, you may be eligible to claim the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit.

Here were the income thresholds for third stimulus checks according to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA):

Individuals: $75,000
Head of household: $112,500
Couple filing jointly: $150,000

For example, individuals who made $110,000 in 2019 but had their hours reduced in 2020 and therefore only made $60,000 would qualify for the third Recovery Rebate Credit. If you didn’t get this credit as part of your 2020 tax return, check the IRS’ tool to see the whereabouts of your third stimulus check.

How to find your payment

Use the “Get My Payment” tool to see the most up-to-date status on where your check is.

The IRS hotline is 1-800-919-9835. However, wait times average 27 minutes during a good year—and this year reported wait times have been over an hour. Some people are finding it hard to get through to an operator at all. (Business hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.)

After you get your third stimulus check

You will receive a Notice 1444-C after your third Economic Impact Payment is issued. The IRS suggests you keep this notice with your 2021 tax records.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to your personal finances, you can take a few actions now to get yourself on the right track.

Download 3 Essential Steps to Financial Freedom, an actionable guide for a better financial life with insights from fiduciary financial advisors. The guide is free.
Sign up for the Personal Capital Dashboard. Millions of people use these free and secure professional-grade online financial tools. You can use them to track debt paydown, analyze your investments, and plan for long-term financial goals.
Consider talking to a fiduciary financial advisor for more detailed guidance on achieving your financial goals.

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Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation and is compensated as a freelance writer.

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