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IRS stimulus checks: Tracking, deposit dates, and other unanswered questions portend a messy rollout

Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic need money now. The IRS is not especially good at acting quickly.

IRS stimulus checks: Tracking, deposit dates, and other unanswered questions portend a messy rollout
[Photo: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash]
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Heads up that your COVID-19 stimulus check is probably still a glimmer in the eye of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, which is to say that you shouldn’t count on it to pay an immediate bill. In the wake of the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic, the federal government approved direct payments to taxpayers, but exactly when those payments will arrive is hard to nail down. Here’s the latest:

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  • When is my check coming? Not sure! Mnuchin promised that stimulus payments would begin being sent out in mid-April, while Democrats have warned it might take as long as five months. The IRS website says that “distribution will begin in the next three weeks.”
  • How much will I get? Good question! It is based on your adjusted gross income on your 2019 (line 8b) or 2018 (line 7) taxes. Here’s a calculator from H&R Block.
  • Can I have it direct deposited? Possibly! If you previously provided the IRS with your direct deposit information for tax refunds, the stimulus payment will be sent there. Otherwise, it will be mailed to the address the IRS has on file. (Yes, if you’ve moved, it could go to your old address.) The IRS says it will have a portal up in “mid-April” where you can input direct deposit info.
  • Can I track my stimulus check? Nope—at least not right now. Unlike for typical tax refunds, a tracking portal does not yet exist.
  • Who won’t get a check? Most college students (who are dependents on their parents’ taxes), immigrants without social security numbers, and anyone with an adjusted gross income over $99,000 (or $136,000 for head of household).

In summary: It’ll probably be a while, the check could conceivably be sent to the wrong place, and there is no way to track it in real time. All this despite the fact that millions of Americans devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic need money now.