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Still no stimulus check? Here’s how to file an IRS trace to track your payment – CNET

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If your third stimulus payment never arrived, you can request an IRS payment trace.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When is it time to worry that your stimulus check hasn’t arrived yet? The IRS is still disbursing payments and will be doing so until December. But if you know you qualify for a third stimulus payment and haven’t received your $1,400 check (or the first or second check), it’s a good idea to take action and track it down now. 

There might indeed be an issue with your check, or the IRS could have the wrong mailing address on file. Another problem might be that you received just some of the money you’re eligible for, so you could be owed a “plus-up” payment (in which case, you won’t need to file an amended tax form).

We’ll let you know whether you should request an IRS payment trace or file for a recovery rebate credit, even if you don’t normally file taxes (the deadline is May 17). If you filed your 2020 tax return and you’re waiting for your refund money, you might be interested in how to track it down. Also, if you received unemployment benefits in 2020, you could be due for a big tax break. Here’s what we know about a possible fourth stimulus payment, how to see if the IRS owes you an extra refund and how much of the $3,600 per kid you could get with the child tax credit starting in July. This story was recently updated. 

Should I panic if my stimulus check is still a no-show? 

Since the third stimulus checks are still being sent, you could hold out a little longer before taking action. If you didn’t get your first or second check at all, though, it’s time to do something. This chart shows when you can and should request an IRS payment trace, which is designed to hunt down a stimulus check the agency says it sent. More below on exactly how a payment trace works, how to get started and when to use it.

When to request an IRS payment trace

Method of payment Time passed since IRS says it sent your payment
Direct deposit 5 days
Check mailed to standard address 4 weeks
Check mailed to a forwarded address 6 weeks
Check mailed to a foreign address 9 weeks

This timeline was the same for the first and second payments of 2020 as well. If your first or second stimulus check is missing, you can no longer use the Get My Payment tool to track it down. 

What if the IRS says my third stimulus payment was sent, but I never received it?

It’s easy check its status of your third stimulus check through the Get My Payment tool. You’ll need to request a payment trace if the IRS portal shows your payment was issued but you haven’t received it within the time frame outlined in the chart above.

To use the tool, you need to plug in your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, date of birth, street address and ZIP or postal code. The portal will show your payment status, if your money has been scheduled and the payment method (direct deposit or by mail) and date. You might also see a different message or an error. (Here’s how to track your mailed check through the US Postal Service.)

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What if the IRS sent me a letter confirming my payment but I didn’t get my money? 

About 15 days after the IRS sends your third stimulus check (by either direct depositpaper check or EIP card), you should get a letter from the agency confirming your payment. The IRS is still sending these letters for the third payment.

If you received this letter — also called Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment — but you never got your payment, you’ll need to request a payment trace. Make sure you keep the letter because you’ll need the information to file your claim. (Here’s what to do if you lost the IRS letter.) The same is true for the first and second stimulus checks as well. 

How can I claim missing stimulus money through an IRS trace?

To request a payment trace, call the IRS at 800-919-9835 or mail or fax a completed Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund (PDF). Note: If you call the number, you’ll have to listen through the recorded content before you can connect with an agent.

To complete Form 3911 for your third stimulus check, the IRS provides the following instructions: 

1. Write “EIP3” on the top of the form (EIP stands for Economic Impact Payment.)

2. Complete the form answering all refund questions as they relate to your payment.

3. When completing item 7 under Section 1:

  • Check the box for “Individual” as the Type of return.
  • Enter “2021” as the Tax Period.
  • Do not write anything for the Date Filed.
  • Sign the form. If you’re married and filing together, both spouses must sign the form.

You should not mail Form 3911 if you’ve already requested a trace by phone. And the IRS said you should not request a payment trace to determine if you were eligible to get a check or to confirm the amount you should have received

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How do IRS payment traces for stimulus checks work?

The IRS will do the following to process your claim, according to its website: 

  • If you didn’t cash the check, the IRS will issue a replacement. If you discover the original check among your belongings, you’re expected to return it as soon as possible.
  • If you did cash the refund check, expect a claim package from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which will include a copy of the cashed check. Follow the included instructions. The bureau will review your claim and the signature on the canceled check before deciding whether it will issue a replacement. This is presumably to guard against stimulus check fraud.

How long after I request a payment trace will it take for my stimulus check to arrive?

You should get a response from the IRS about six weeks after the agency receives your request for a payment trace, according to its website. But this could be delayed due to limited staffing. 

For more, read about a potential fourth stimulus check and what else is in the stimulus package that may help you financially.