After signing the bill Thursday, Biden promised that the money will go out quickly. But the devil is always in the details, especially since the day-to-day task of getting out the payments falls to the IRS, which is in the middle of the 2021 tax season and is also still processing millions of 2019 returns.
But I get it. You don’t care about all that. You need money now. As in previous rounds, the IRS will eventually post answers to many of your questions at irs.gov. But I’ve put together some information on when you can expect a payment, including what might delay your stimulus funds.
If you are in one of these groups, you should be among the first recipients of the third round of stimulus payments:
You’ve filed your 2019 or 2020 return and received a refund: You should be first in line to get a payment. It’s possible you may see a pending post to your bank account by this weekend. Direct-deposit payments in the previous rounds were issued first to individuals with valid routing and account information on file at the IRS.
Just two days after the second stimulus package was signed into law on Dec. 27, providing $600 payments to eligible Americans, the IRS began making direct deposits into recipients’ bank accounts. A day after that, on Dec. 30, the agency said it began mailing paper checks.
The first wave of electronic payments went out to those who had received a refund and — this was key — had their refund direct-deposited into a bank account.
You used the IRS “non-filers” tool before Nov. 21: The IRS launched a new non-filers tool last year for people who don’t normally file a tax return. People in this group had to use the tool to file a scaled-down tax return. They could then enter payment information, including their bank account data, that allowed the agency to send them direct-deposit payments.
You receive Social Security retirement benefits, survivor or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement benefits or veterans benefits: You should be among the first to receive an automatic payment, even if you aren’t required to file a tax return.
Here’s what could delay all or part of your stimulus payment:
You’ve filed your 2020 return and you owed the IRS: There has been a lot of confusion about what bank information the IRS maintains, and it has created a lot of angst and anger when it comes to the stimulus payments.
In general, the IRS cannot use bank account information it has been given for taxes owed to electronically deposit stimulus payments. The agency said it needs specific authorization to use the same bank information to direct-deposit a stimulus payment.
In this case, the IRS may end up mailing you a check or prepaid debit card. Payments sent as a paper check will obviously require more processing and mailing time, especially given the issues with the U.S. Postal Service.
You have not filed a 2019 or 2020 federal return: Millions of people are not required to file a return, because they don’t have income or earn too little.
To get stimulus payments if you qualify, the IRS needs to have a tax return on file for you. So, until you file a return, the IRS can’t send you a payment. For now, the non-filers tool is closed, so people can’t enter or update information in that portal.
The IRS has until the end of the year to get out the third round of payments. After that, eligible taxpayers have to file a 2021 return to claim the stimulus payment, which, like the first two rounds, is referred to as a “recovery rebate credit.”
You have to file a paper return: If people can’t file electronically, they have to mail a paper return. And that’s a problem since the coronavirus is still causing delays in the processing of paper returns. One problem frustrating advocates who work with chronically homeless, elderly and disabled people is the inability to add banking information without the now-closed online non-filers tool. These people will still get a payment but, without the banking information, it has to be mailed.
You have dependents and receive Social Security retirement benefits, survivor or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement benefits or veterans benefits: In the first two rounds, federal beneficiaries didn’t automatically get the stimulus funds ($500 and $600) if they had dependent children 16 and under. The distribution was plagued by glitches — including missing or incorrect payments for dependent children.
Also, new in this round, dependents of any age qualify for the $1,400.
Because many low-income people receiving certain federal benefits are not required to file tax returns, the IRS has no way of knowing whether they have qualifying dependent children.
If you used the non-filers tool by the Nov. 21 date, you shouldn’t have any issues. But if you missed the deadline, you have to file a 2020 return to get the money for your dependent. Until you file, the IRS won’t have the dependent information.
You have older dependents and used the non-filers tool: In the previous two rounds of stimulus relief, parents could get a payment only for dependents who were 16 or younger. So, if you had a dependent child who was 17 or older, there was no extra coronavirus-related assistance.
Eligible taxpayers will receive $1,400 for each dependent claimed on their federal return, regardless of age. This might include a college student, a disabled adult child or an elderly relative.
However, if the IRS defaults to using your 2019 return for this third round, it might not know you have older dependents if the information wasn’t entered into the non-filers tool. So, you may not initially get the $1,400 for dependents 17 or older.
But don’t worry. Under the American Rescue Plan, the IRS can make supplemental payments if it misses eligible dependents during the initial distribution of the $1,400 payments.
You’ve moved: Although you may have filed your 2020 return and even received a refund, it’s possible the IRS hasn’t fully completed processing your return. So the agency would default to your 2019 return, and it may have an old address.
If you chose direct deposit for 2019, you’re probably good. If not, make sure you’ve given the U.S. Postal Service a forwarding address. The IRS uses the USPS National Change of Address registry. Yet even when you notify the Postal Service, not all post offices forward government checks, so you may need to still contact the IRS. Got to irs.gov and search for “change of address.”
And if history is a guide, a forwarded check takes longer to arrive.
You’ve closed the bank account that your 2019 or 2020 federal refund was sent to: If the account is closed, your bank must send the payment back to the IRS. If this the case, you’ll get a check to the address the agency has on file for you.
Payments sent as a paper check or prepaid debit card may take longer to get to you.
There are a number of other reasons you may not receive a payment right away. The IRS will be issuing guidelines to help explain the distribution of the next phase of stimulus relief. Perhaps the third time will be a charm, and there will be fewer glitches.