Why haven’t I gotten my stimulus check? 6 reasons why your payment was a no-show
The IRS started cutting stimulus checks in mid-April and it’s already paid nearly 90 million people.
That’s good news for everyone who’s received the payments and now has $1,200 in hand to use as they see fit during a coronavirus outbreak with massive health and financial consequences.
But it’s another source of stress for everybody else who’s still waiting for their money.
There are answers for the delays, but first, here’s where things stand so far on those checks: The IRS had distributed 88.1 million stimulus checks as of April 17 and paid out $157.96 billion, according to statistics released April 24. That’s more than half of the $290 billion put aside for direct payments to individuals in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus bill.
The IRS started mailing paper checks the week of April 20, according to a timeline from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee. The IRS will put approximately 5 million checks in the mail each week for up to 20 weeks. The agency started mailing checks to the people who have the lowest incomes first, the timeline said.
It’s cold comfort to hear the check’s in the mail. In fact, it can be a real problem for many people who are tight on cash and eyeing bills that are late or coming due.
Here are some reasons why you still may not have gotten a stimulus check — and, in some cases, what you can do to speed the process.
The IRS doesn’t have your bank account information on file
Approximately 14 million Americans don’t have bank accounts, according to a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation survey from 2017. That’s about 6.5% of American households.
The FDIC is urging people to open bank accounts so they can get their stimulus money quicker. (Consumers with bank accounts will also bypass pricey fees from a check cashing business — some of which can charge more than $100 to cash a stimulus check for a family of four, according to an analysis from Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez.)
After opening a bank account, consumers can submit their banking information to the IRS. If they don’t file taxes (some people don’t make enough money to file taxes), they’ll need to submit the information to an IRS website for people who don’t file taxes.
People who have filed taxes but did not give the IRS their banking information can submit direct deposit information through the IRS “Get My Payment” tool. The tracking tool can also show the payment status, but some people have complained that the tool doesn’t give them any information.
There are reasons for the non-answer, according to the IRS.
For example, it could be that the agency isn’t done processing the person’s 2019 return. It could also be that the person typically doesn’t file a tax return and has submitted non-filer information via the IRS web portal, which is still being processed.
“We update Get My Payment data once per day, overnight so there is no need to check more often,” the IRS says on its website.
A Spanish language version of “Get My Payment” will be available in a couple of weeks, according to the IRS.
You make too much money
Some people might not be getting a $1,200 stimulus payment right now because they make too much money.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act authorized $1,200 payments to individuals making below $75,000 and $2,400 to married couples earning under $150,000. The program also pays parents $500 for each child age 17 and under.
The payments decline by $5 for every $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 threshold. Anyone making over $99,000 doesn’t qualify, nor do couples making over $198,000.
People who exceed the income limit might still have a chance at the money — albeit next year. That’s because the stimulus payments are technically an advance credit for next year’s tax season. The credit is just being paid right now.
So if someone made too much money on tax returns they are filing now for their 2019 income, they could still get the money based on tax returns they file in 2021 for their income this year.
Someone else is claiming you as a dependent
Some young adults might be missing out on stimulus check money because their parents have claimed them as dependents.
When it comes to stimulus checks, the IRS counts a dependent as age 17 and under. But if the IRS is only reviewing a 2018 return, it could be looking back at a point in time when someone was a high school senior, but now they’re in college.
In one case, a 19-year-old college student told MarketWatch his dad claimed him as a dependent in 2018 returns. But as MarketWatch’s tax columnist Bill Bischoff noted, this student could still be eligible for a stimulus payment themselves on their 2019 return.
The IRS also supplied some hope for young adults. It said someone graduating high school this year will not receive a $1,200 stimulus payment if they are claimed as a dependent this year and claimed as a dependent next year either. But, if nobody can claim the student during the next tax season, the student might be eligible for a $1,200 check at that point.
Glitches could be slowing delivery
Some national tax preparers offer advances on a client’s refund, with the money loaded onto a debit card. Yet that could mean the IRS might not be putting the stimulus money in the right account.
For example, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt both have prepaid cards, and both said they are working to make sure all customers get the money they’re entitled to.
said in a statement the IRS has its clients’ banking information. The IRS “created confusion by not always using clients’ final destination bank account information for stimulus payments. We share our clients’ frustration that many of them have not yet received these much-needed payments due to IRS decisions, and we are actively working with the IRS to get stimulus payments sent directly to client accounts.”
In a statement, Jackson Hewitt advised customers to update their direct deposit information on the IRS’ Get My Payment tool. But if the IRS already put the money on a Serve or Bluebird card that the customer no longer has, they can go onto their account and ask for a replacement.
“Serve customers who would like to receive their stimulus payment to their Serve Account should confirm their direct deposit information with the IRS and update it if necessary,” Jackson Hewitt said. The company said other information on the process is available here.
Debt collectors could be taking the money
Consumer advocates have pointed out the wording of the CARES act does not prevent private debt collectors from seizing stimulus checks that suddenly come into a bank account.
A debt collection trade group said members are “acting with compassion” at this time, but even still, it noted collectors wouldn’t know the source of money that suddenly comes into an account.
But Lauren Saunders, an associate director at the National Consumer Law Center, said there are steps consumers can take to keep their stimulus money out of debt collectors’ hands. One way is to cash your stimulus check without depositing it into your bank account, she said.
It’s also important to know state laws. Approximately 10 states, Washington D.C. and several cities and counties are releasing orders preventing garnishment of stimulus checks, according to a list from the National Consumer Law Center.
Your immigration status could be complicating matters
The government is paying the stimulus checks to U.S. citizens. The checks are also going to certain categories of non-U.S. citizens. This includes “legal permanent residents,” also known as green card holders, according to the IRS.
But if someone still has a green card application pending, they may not be getting a stimulus check, at least not any time soon, according to Washington D.C. immigration attorney Allen Orr. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices, which administer in-person interviews before issuing green cards, closed temporarily in March because of the pandemic. As of now, offices are closed until June 3, USCIS said.
Orr, first vice president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, had a client ready for a green card interview on March 15, but the government office closed on March 14. “He’s out of luck with his stimulus check, which he would qualify for,” Orr told MarketWatch. Whenever the USCIS re-opens its offices, Orr said, it’s likely green cards will be issued at a slower pace, meaning a slower pace on stimulus checks for new green card holders.
Marriage to a green card holder doesn’t necessarily mean a second stimulus check, Orr added.
If a spouse was married to a green card holder and present in the United States before they received their legal permanent resident status, they too should be getting a check, Orr said. But if someone married a green card holder afterward, they wouldn’t get the same benefit.
Receiving a stimulus check shouldn’t disrupt a person’s path to citizenship if they already have a green card, Orr said. “No one is giving you anything. It’s something you’re entitled to.”