What Happens if IRS Sent Your Coronavirus Check to the Wrong Bank?

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There are a lot of reasons you may still be waiting on your coronavirus check.

Maybe it’s a technical glitch. Or the IRS is still processing your payment. Or the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit info, so it’s put you in the queue for a paper check.

But many people who have used the IRS Get My Payment tool to track their stimulus check have found that their check has been deposited — to a bank account they’ve closed or they don’t recognize.

Stimulus Check Sent to Wrong Account? Here’s What to Expect

If your stimulus check was sent to the wrong account, you’ll still get your payment… eventually. But you could be waiting a lot longer as a result. Here’s what will happen.

If You’ve Closed the Bank Account

If you’ve closed the bank account that the IRS had on file from your last tax return, your bank will send it back to the IRS. 

Then, the IRS will begin processing a paper check for you — but you could be in for a long wait, particularly if your income was close to the maximum eligibility threshold on your 2018 or 2019 tax return.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to change your banking information once your payment has been processed — a source of frustration for many, since the IRS didn’t offer a way to submit account info until it had already started processing payments.

The check will be sent to the most recent address the IRS has on file with you, which is the one on your last tax return or the one that you’ve updated through the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS says that you must have updated your address before your payment is processed.

No word on what the process will be if your check is sent to an old address and your mail isn’t forwarded.

A letter will be sent to your last known address within 15 days that will include instructions on how to report a payment that didn’t go through.

If Your Check Was Sent to an Overdrawn Account

If you’ve overdrafted the bank account the IRS has on file and your check was deposited into that account, your bank can apply the payment toward your negative balance, as the New York Times reported last week.

There’s nothing in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that provided the relief checks to prevent banks from doing this.

However, many banks, including the “Big Four” — Bank of America, Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo — have stopped applying checks to negative balances to allow customers access to their stimulus funds.

For now, your best bet is to check with your bank about its policy.

If You Don’t Recognize the Account

The most common scenario for this problem: Many people who used a tax prep service like H&R Block or TurboTax to get an advance on their refund found their stimulus check was deposited in a bank account they didn’t recognize.

That’s because many tax companies give customers early refunds on a prepaid debit card, then set up a temporary bank account where the IRS deposits the refund. While some people in this situation report getting their stimulus checks without an issue, others have discovered that their check was sent to the temporary account.

In this case, the process will probably be the same as it would be if your check were sent to your old account: The refund will be returned to the IRS, and you’ll get in line for a paper check.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column.