On March 11, President Joe Biden signed his new stimulus bill and COVID-19 response strategy, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, into law. To combat the economic fallout from the ongoing pandemic, the law includes funding for a third round of $1,400 direct payments to the majority of American households. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is working quickly to distribute direct stimulus payments, and people across the country are wondering when they'll receive theirs. If you haven't gotten the $1,400 stimulus check, here's what you can do to keep track of things.
These $1,400 payments are intended to supplement the $600 checks approved in December 2020, bringing the total amount of direct financial relief up to $2,000, in addition to the first $1,200 most Americans received in spring 2020. According to a March 12 announcement from the IRS, the first wave of $1,400 stimulus payments will be distributed as direct deposits to the majority of American taxpayers. If the IRS doesn't have your banking information on file, your stimulus payment will most likely "be sent in the coming weeks by direct deposit and through the mail as a check or debit card," per the IRS. To find out how and when your stimulus payment is being distributed, you can use the "Get My Payment" tool on IRS.gov. Once you enter in your information, you'll get one of three status messages: "Payment Status," "Need More Information," or "Payment Status Not Available."
If you get the "Payment Status" message, this either means your payment has been processed and is on the way, or you're eligible to receive a payment, but it hasn't been processed yet and a payment date isn't currently available for your case. If you receive a "Need More Information" message, this means "your payment was returned to the IRS because the Postal Service was unable to deliver it," per the IRS. In this case (and this case only), you can set up a direct deposit account through the "Get My Payment" tool for the IRS to reissue your stimulus funds, or you can update your address with the IRS. If you get a "Payment Status Not Available" message, this could mean one of three things: your stimulus payment hasn't been processed yet, the IRS doesn't have enough information to process your payment, or you aren't eligible for a payment at all.
There could actually be several reasons why your stimulus payment is missing, and they could be as simple as a direct deposit error, change of home address, a child dependent who wasn't counted, or an accidental garnishment. To find out why, you can request a payment trace from the IRS. However, because of the stimulus bill's new income limits, you may no longer qualify for economic impact funds. These income limits were approved by Biden on March 3, lowering qualifying income caps by $20,000. This means only individuals earning under $80,000, and households earning under $160,000, would qualify to receive stimulus funds, per The New York Times.
According to the IRS, the easiest way to update your information and find out if you're eligible to receive a stimulus payment in 2021 is to file your 2020 taxes. The IRS uses both 2019 and 2020 tax information to distribute stimulus payments, so if there have been any changes in your living status or income, those changes may affect your eligibility. For instance, if you lost income because you were laid off in 2020 but haven't filed your tax return, then the IRS will use your 2019 tax information to determine your eligibility, which won't show that you were laid off. If you're typically a non-filer and you missed the Nov. 21, 2020 deadline to use the IRS non-filer's tool to receive the first two stimulus payments, you can file a 1040 or 1040-SR in 2021 to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit. This credit would allow you to claim any stimulus payments you may have missed out on as a non-filer. If you're eligible for the credit and you didn't receive the first two stimulus payments (or didn't receive the full amount), then you must file your 2020 taxes, even if you aren't required to.
On March 12, Biden stated that around 85% of American households would qualify to receive some form of stimulus payment under the American Rescue Plan, with some receiving their payments as early as March 12. As the country continues to struggle onward through the pandemic, it's clear that many Americans still need as much help as possible to make ends meet.