Despite the government’s best efforts to deliver two rounds of direct payments for coronavirus relief to all eligible Americans over the past 10 months, many did not receive the full amount that they were owed. If you fall in that category, and the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t told you to expect a check is in the mail, you may be able to claim your payment as a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 taxes.
And now is a good time to start thinking about it: This week, the IRS launched its Free File system, which works with third-party tax preparers to let people file their taxes online for free. If you earned $72,000 or less last year, you can take advantage of this feature and get an early start on tax filing season, which officially begins on February 12. Using Free File and setting up a direct deposit will help you get money you’re owed more quickly. The service works with at least nine third-party providers, including Intuit’s TurboTax.
To get started, all you have to do is visit the dedicated Free File page, use the lookup tool to find the product you want to use, and click through to the provider’s website.
Keep in mind that many people who haven’t received their second stimulus payment yet may still receive one in the mail, either as a paper check or as a debit card. The IRS has said that it could take up to three to four weeks for mailed payments to arrive, and it has told taxpayers to keep watching their mail throughout the month of January.
The easiest way to find out if you’re getting a payment by mail is to check the IRS Get My Payment Tool, which should provide a scheduled date. If you check the tool and see the message “Payment Status Not Available,” that could indicate that you’re not receiving a payment, either because the IRS doesn’t have enough information or hasn’t finished processing your 2019 returns. (It could also mean that you were never eligible to receive a stimulus payment in the first place. Eligible taxpayers should receive separate letters in the mail, “IRS Notice 1444” and “IRS Notice 1444-B,” notifying them of their eligibility and how much they’re due to receive.)