Some of you — estimated to number as many 30 to 35 million — are wondering, “Where is my stimulus check?”
It’s a reasonable question during anxious times. After all, 159 million stimulus checks have already been sent to individuals and families throughout the U.S. The financial relief is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which was designed to add fuel to a lackluster economy that has been battered by the coronavirus and quarantines. But if you’re one of the remaining 35 million eligible Americans who have not yet received a stimulus check, you may naturally be wondering where your money is.
There are a number of scenarios that you may want to consider or look into.
[Read: How to Build an Emergency Fund.]
You Aren’t Getting a Stimulus Check
Not every American is getting one. According to the IRS, you won’t receive a stimulus check if you don’t have any qualifying children and your adjusted gross income is higher than:
— $198,000 if your filing status was married filing jointly.
— $136,500 for head of household.
— $99,000 for all eligible individuals.
There are other scenarios, too, in which you may not be eligible for a stimulus check. For instance, if you are, say, a 19-year-old college student, and your parents claim you as a dependent on their tax return, you won’t receive a check. If you don’t have a Social Security number that’s valid for employment, that could eliminate you from contention for a check. If you’re currently in jail, you won’t get a stimulus payment.
You Are Eligible But You Have a High Salary
The IRS prioritized sending checks to low-income families and individuals. That means if you’re on the high end of the range of people who will receive a stimulus check, it may just be that the IRS hasn’t sent you your money yet.
You Received Your Money — You Just Don’t Know It
Maybe your money came in the mail, and you threw it away.
Of course, you’re thinking, “I wouldn’t do that.”
But you might have, argues Rakesh Gupta, associate professor of decision sciences and marketing at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York.
Some people, who for whatever reason could not get their funds directly deposited into a bank, are receiving their money via a debit card versus a paper check. But other taxpayers are getting a check. So there are no absolutes here.
“The debit card will be in an envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services. The envelope does not say Treasury Department or IRS or U.S. Government on it. So people should be careful and not throw it away thinking it is another credit card offer,” Gupta says.
Inside the envelope is a card marked “Visa” and “debit” on the front. The bank is MetaBank, N.A.
It’s easy to imagine a lot of people — if they even open the envelope — glancing at the card and tossing that into the trash.
If you think you threw yours away, you can call the Treasury Department at 1-800-240-8100 and ask for a free replacement.
It’s also worth noting that once you get your debit card with your money on it, you can ask your bank to transfer the cash to your account — if you’re worried about, say, losing it again or losing some of the money to ATM fees.
You May Have Been a Victim of Identity Theft
Have you not yet filed your taxes? Understandable with the pandemic going on, and besides, the IRS extended the filing deadline to July 15, 2020. But if you’ve held off preparing your taxes, you’re opening yourself up to a bit of risk.
“Tax procrastinators are unknowingly giving an expanded window for income tax identity thieves to capitalize by filing a 2019 income tax return in the name of their victims,” says Steve Weisman, a senior lecturer in law, taxation and financial planning at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He also runs a website on scam information called Scamicide.com.
“This year, that means a double whammy, as income tax identity thieves not only claim the phony refunds they claim on the returns but also the CARES Act stimulus payments due to the legitimate taxpayers. Income tax identity theft is already a multibillion-dollar problem for the IRS, but the coronavirus stands to make that problem more serious this year,” he says.
It may seem highly unlikely that you would have somebody steal your identity and get your stimulus check, and hopefully it is, but it has happened to at least one couple from Illinois, according to Weisman.
“If you have filed your 2019 income tax return electronically already and provided bank account information with your income tax return, you should be fine,” Weissman says.
If you filed your 2019 income tax electronically but didn’t provide the IRS with a bank account to which your tax refund and CARES Act stimulus check should be sent, the deadline to do that (May 13) has unfortunately long passed. But you will be mailed a debit card or a check.
You Recently Moved
Wendy Barlin, a certified public accountant and owner of About Profit, an accounting and income tax firm in Los Angeles, says some of her clients have run into trouble getting their stimulus checks because they’ve moved within the last year.
“The check would have gone to the address on the last tax return that you filed with the IRS. If you have moved since then, the IRS likely does not know that and sent your payment to the old address,” Barlin says, adding: “Mail forwarding does not seem to be picking up and forwarding these checks.”
If you have moved and are still waiting for your check, you may want to make a call to the Treasury.
Your Debit Card Is Lost in the Mail
Barlin points out that could be the issue. It might be “good, old-fashioned lost in the mail,” she says. “Our mail service is under extreme pressure right now with COVID restrictions, and it seems mail is often lost in the system.”
But whatever happens, if you do not receive your stimulus check or prepaid debit card this year and you’re entitled to it, Barlin says: “You will get a credit on your 2020 personal income tax return for the funds you should have but didn’t receive. I understand it is a timing problem, and people want the money now. But please know, worst-case scenario, the money is not lost forever, and you will receive it when you file your 2020 tax return.”
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