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Still no IRS stimulus check in the mail or by direct deposit? Here’s how and when to trace it

If the IRS gave you a delivery date and you don’t receive it, you can request a payment trace, but you have to wait a certain amount of time first.

Still no IRS stimulus check in the mail or by direct deposit? Here’s how and when to trace it
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Did you know you can ask the Internal Revenue Service to trace your stimulus payment if you never receive it?

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You can—that’s the good news. The bad news? It probably won’t get you paid any faster. But it could offer some piece of mind for the countless Americans who are still waiting for the $600 Economic Impact Payment that was authorized as part of the coronavirus relief package in December.

In an update on Friday, the IRS laid out the timetables for when taxpayers may request a “payment trace.” This service is only available if you were told by the IRS (either through a written letter or via its online Get My Payment portal) that a payment was delivered, but you never received it. If that’s the case, you have to wait a certain amount of time before making the request, and note that the timetables are different depending on the payment method. Here’s what to know:

  • If you were told that your payment was delivered via direct deposit and your bank hasn’t received it, you can request a trace after five days.
  • If you were told that your payment was sent by mail to a standard U.S. address, you can request a trace after after February 24.
  • If you were told that your payment was sent by mail but you have a forwarding address, you can request a trace after March 10.
  • If you were told that your payment was mailed to a foreign address, you can request a trace after March 31.

The IRS emphasizes (in all caps no less) that it will not start the tracing process before the appropriate amount of time has passed, so don’t try to request one early. It also notes that the service is not meant to help people determine if they’re eligible for a stimulus payment. If you’ve been told that a payment was sent, and you were given a date, and if you’ve waited enough time, you can request a trace by one of two ways:

  • Call the IRS at 800-919-9835.
  • Mail a completed Form 3911 (Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund) and follow the instructions laid out here.

Unfortunately, tracing your payment doesn’t mean the IRS will issue you another one. It will instead reverse the payment (if the check wasn’t cashed) or provide you with a copy of the cashed check and additional details on what to do next (if the check was cashed). The upside here is that once you get verification from the IRS that the payment was never received, you can claim it as a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 taxes.

For more information on the IRS payment trace service, check out the FAQ page here.

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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