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IRS stimulus check update: What to know about mailed payments and the Friday deadline

By law, the IRS has until Friday, January 15, to distribute the second round of Economic Impact Payments, but mailed payments could take weeks.

IRS stimulus check update: What to know about mailed payments and the Friday deadline
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A critical deadline is approaching for the Internal Revenue Service as it scrambles to deliver the second round of stimulus checks that were authorized as part of the latest coronavirus relief package.

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Under the legislation, the payments must be distributed by this Friday, January 15. While the IRS said last week that two-thirds of eligible payments have already been sent out, technical glitches and distribution errors have caused delays for many Americans. Some may eventually receive their payment via direct deposit, or in the mail through a debit card or paper check, but many other eligible taxpayers may be forced to claim their payment as a credit on their 2020 tax forms in order to receive the cash.

If you’re still waiting for your check as of this week, here are some things to know:

Try checking the Get My Payment tool again

Many Americans who tried to check the status of their payment via the IRS Get My Payment portal last week had little luck, either due to glitches or because the tool was overwhelmed with visitors. If you were one of them, it might be worth trying again. The IRS said it updated the tool with the latest payment information last week. If you’re eligible to receive a check, it should tell you one of three things:

  • Direct deposit info: If you’re getting your check this way, the tool should display a date and a partial bank account where the funds were distributed. (Note that many payments that were distributed this way went to the wrong account due to distribution errors, and the IRS says it’s working to fix this, so you should keep checking your bank account if you don’t see it.)
  • Mailed payments: If you’re getting your payment as a paper check or debit card, the tool should display the date it was mailed. The IRS says it could take three to four weeks to actually receive your check or card in the mail. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been very clear about who is getting which payment method. Some taxpayers who received their first payment via paper check could get a debit card this time, and vice versa. Just be on the lookout for the envelope, and make sure you don’t accidentally throw it away. (Here’s what it looks like.)
  • Payment Status #2–Not Available: Unfortunately, if you receive this message, that means you’ll have to do a little extra work. According to the IRS, you’ll need to claim your stimulus payment as a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 income tax return. The good news is, you can file electronically and get your payment faster that way, but you’ll still have to fill out Form 1040 or 1040-SR to get the ball rolling. Note: Even if you don’t normally file a tax return, you can still use one of those forms to claim the credit. You will, however, need to calculate how much you’re expected to receive beforehand. The IRS has more information about the Recovery Rebate Credit here.

I checked the tool and it isn’t working. Should I call the IRS?

You can try, but you may not get through. In addition to distributing stimulus checks, the IRS is also very busy with the regular tax season. Its staffers are overwhelmed. The IRS has urged people not to call with questions about their stimulus checks and instead directs them to its FAQ page, which is updated regularly with new information. Good luck.

About the author

Christopher Zara is a senior staff news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine

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