After the Internal Revenue Service began sending out economic impact paymensts, also known as coronavirus stimulus checks, in mid-April, the agency has already had plenty to say about the process. Part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in March, millions of payments of at least $1,200 have either been deposited into taxpayers' bank accounts or mailed as a physical check. The IRS has outlined just about everything related to the payment on their website, and Trump officials have spent the past few weeks answering questions about glitches in the system.
At the moment, no legislation with a second stimulus check has been passed by Congress or signed into law, though there are several proposals. The Emergency Money for the People Act, which was introduced by Reps. Ro Khanna and Tim Ryan, would send monthly payments of $2,000 to single taxpayers and $4,000 to married taxpayers, based on specific qualifications. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley proposed the Getting Back to Work Act, which would be a refundable payroll tax rebate covering employer payroll costs. Rep. Ilhan Omar proposed the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which would make it possible to cancel rent and mortgage payments for up to a year without impacting a person's credit rating.
While Congress debates these and other ideas for helping millions of Americans out of work and seeing slashed paychecks during the pandemic, the IRS has provided resources to make sure Americans get what has already been guaranteed. The agency's website includes tools people can use to track their payments and answer their questions. There is also detailed instructions on what to do if a payment is not as much as you expected or even more than expected.
"Get Your Payment" Tool
The IRS launched a "Get Your Payment" tool, which can be used by those who filed federal taxes in 2018 or 2019. All you need to enter is your Social Security number, date of birth, street address and zip code. Once you do that, the tool should tell you when the payment was sent to you, either by direct deposit or as a physical check. If it was deposited into your bank account, you will see the last four digits of the account the IRS has on file.
Information for "Non-Filers"
The IRS website also has resources for those who did not need to file tax returns for 2018 and 2019. "You are not required to file federal income tax returns for 2018 and 2019 for any reason including: Your income is less than $12,200, You’re married filing jointly and together your income is less than $24,400, You have no income," the website reads. The IRS provides instructions for non-filers to enter information to receive an Economic Impact Payment. If you click "Enter Your Information," you are redirected to a FreeFile site with a step-by-step forms.
Information for SSA, VA, SSI and RRB Benefit Recipients with Dependents
The IRS automatically scheduled payments for those who receive Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI) or survivor benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Affairs (C&P) beneficiaries will not receive payments until mid-May. The "non-filers" tool could still be used to tell the IRS about dependents under 17, but this deadline has already passed.
"However, the window has closed to use this tool for these recipients who have a child and don't normally file a tax return," the IRS page notes. "These recipients who do not receive a payment that includes up to $500 for any qualifying children can file a tax return next year to determine their payment based on 2020 and claim any additional amount they weren’t paid this year."
Why are some getting "Payment Status Not Available"?
When the "Get My Payment" tool became available, there were plenty of glitches. Many Americans were confused when "Payment Status Not Available" showed up. "If you receive 'Payment Status Not Available,' you will not be able to provide direct deposit information at this time. We’re working on updates to allow more people to use this feature," the IRS explained. "We update Get My Payment data once per day, overnight so there is no need to check more often. If you are eligible for a payment and have provided your information either through a recent tax return or the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here application, please check back for updates."
Can you update the bank information the IRS has on file?
Direct deposit was the first method the IRS used to send the payments. However, many might have changed banks to changed accounts since filing their taxes. The IRS automatically sent the payment to whatever information it had on file, and if that information was wrong or the account was no longer active, the banks should have rejected it and a check would be sent out instead. You only have until May 13 at noon to enter direct deposit information at the "Get My Payment" tool, and that would only work if your payment has not been sent yet.
"If we issue a direct deposit and the bank information is invalid or the bank account has been closed, the bank will reject the deposit," the IRS said. "We will then mail your payment as soon as possible to the address we have on file for you. Get My Payment will be updated to reflect the date your payment will be mailed. Typically, once the payment is mailed, it will take up to 14 days to receive the payment, standard mailing time."
You cannot use "Get My Payment" to change your address. "To change your address: If you have not filed your 2019 tax return, enter your new address on your return when you file. We update our records when your return is processed. File electronically to ensure your return will be processed more quickly," the IRS site notes. "If you have filed your 2019 tax return and you did not receive a refund via direct deposit, your payment will be mailed to the address we have on file for you. This is generally the address on your most recent return or as updated through the United States Postal Service (USPS)."
The IRS' Information Center
The IRS has a whole page dedicated to just about every question related to the economic impact payment, including who is eligible and how the payments are determined. The most recent section added to the page answers a surprising concern that has come up after deceased taxpayers were sent payments. The IRS is expecting that money to be returned, and instructions on how to do so were published Monday.
"If the payment was a paper check: Write 'Void' in the endorsement section on the back of the check. Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below. Don't staple, bend, or paper clip the check. Include a note stating the reason for returning the check," the site reads.
"If the payment was a paper check and you have cashed it, or if the payment was a direct deposit: Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below. Write on the check/money order made payable to 'U.S. Treasury' and write 2020EIP, and the taxpayer identification number (social security number, or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check. Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the EIP," the IRS adds.
The IRS has also been releasing statistics on how many payments have been sent. The most recent batch of data was released on Friday. At the time the IRS said over 157 million individuals have received payments so far, totaling more than $200 billion. By the time is over, about 150 million payments are expected to be sent.
"We are working hard to continue delivering these payments to Americans who need them," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. "The vast majority of payments have been delivered in record time, and millions more are on the way every week. We encourage people to visit IRS.gov for the latest information, FAQs and updates on the payments."