Still Waiting on Your Stimulus Check? Here’s How to Report It Missing

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This post refers to stimulus checks issued in 2020. For the most up-to-date info, check out our recent tax articles.

Are you pretty much the only person you know who still hasn’t received a stimulus check?

If the IRS website says your payment has been sent but you still haven’t received it, you have reason to be concerned. Fortunately, the IRS recently provided instructions for what to do in this situation.

The good news: You have options for getting a check. But unfortunately, none of them are quick.

What to Do if Your Stimulus Check Is Missing

The following instructions only apply if you’ve gotten confirmation that your payment has been sent, either from the Get My Payment tracker or through Notice 1444 in the mail (that’s the letter with President Trump’s signature notifying you of your payment).

If you aren’t sure whether you’re eligible for a payment or if you need to take action to get one (like filing a tax return), check out this IRS FAQ.

If you haven’t been able to confirm that your payment has been sent using Get My Payment, try these nine hacks for tracking your check.

However, if you have confirmed that your payment has been sent and you still haven’t received it, you’ll need to initiate what the IRS calls a trace on your payment. But wait! You may need to give the IRS more time, especially if you’re getting a paper check. You should only initiate a trace in the following situations:

  • Direct deposits: More than five days have passed since the scheduled delivery.
  • Paper checks: The check was mailed more than four weeks ago.
  • Paper checks with a forwarding address: The check was mailed more than six weeks ago.
  • Paper checks with a foreign address: The check was mailed more than nine weeks ago.

Keep in mind that if your check was sent to a bank account you’ve closed, the bank will reject the deposit and return it to the IRS. The IRS will usually process a paper check for you within two weeks, so you probably don’t need to take further action.

How to Initiate a Trace

You can initiate a trace by doing one of the following:

  • Call the IRS Economic Impact Line at 800-919-9835. The IRS only recently started accepting phone calls again. Expect a long, long series of automated messages followed by an even longer wait time before you speak to a human.
  • Fill out Form 3911 and mail it. Any mail correspondence will have an extremely long processing time. The IRS is just beginning to process a backlog of about 5 million paper tax returns that piled up while staff was working remotely. We’d recommend at least trying to get through by phone before mailing the form. If you’re married filing jointly, both you and your spouse need to sign the form.

How to Get a New Stimulus Check

If your check wasn’t cashed, the IRS will cancel your check and send you a new one. If you later find or receive the original, you need to return it. Instructions are available in questions 63 and 64.

If your check was cashed, you’ll receive a claim package from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service that includes a copy of the cashed check and instructions for what to do next. The bureau will examine your claim and the signature on the canceled check to determine if they can issue you a new one.

Other Reasons You Haven’t Gotten a Stimulus Check

Don’t assume your check is missing or was stolen unless you’ve actually gotten confirmation a payment was made. Otherwise, there’s likely a different reason you haven’t gotten your payment:

  • You didn’t file a 2018 or 2019 tax return. If you’re not required to file, use the non-filer tool to submit your information. Otherwise, file your 2019 return by July 15.
  • Someone else claimed you as a dependent. Many students ages 17 to 23, along with adults who are cared for by family members won’t get stimulus checks because a family member claimed them as a dependent. In this case, if you can’t be claimed as a dependent for 2020 — for example, if you graduate and get a job — you’d get a $1,200 credit when you file your 2020 taxes.
  • You don’t qualify based on your income. Your check is reduced by 5 cents for every dollar you earned above $75,000 for single people or $150,000 for married couples. The payment amount was determined using your 2018 or 2019 tax returns, but if you earned less in 2020, you could get a stimulus credit when you file taxes next year.
  • You or your spouse don’t have a Social Security number. If you file a joint tax return with someone who doesn’t have a green card, neither of you will get a stimulus payment. About 1 million U.S. citizens are ineligible for payments for this reason.
  • Your stimulus payment was offset for unpaid child support. If your tax refund is usually garnished for child support, your stimulus check probably will be as well. Other types of debt, like unpaid taxes or delinquent student loans, won’t affect your payment.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].