Here’s When to File Taxes if You Haven’t Gotten Stimulus Money
by Susannah McQuitty
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If your $600 stimulus payment (also referred to as the second economic impact payment, or EIP2) still hasn’t arrived in your bank account or mailbox, you may be wondering if you should wait to file your tax return. After all, you’ve likely heard of the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC) by now, which lets taxpayers claim missing stimulus money as a refund—but can you claim the RRC if your money is on its way but not technically “missing?”
Should I wait to file my tax return if I haven’t gotten my second stimulus payment?
If you’re ready to do your taxes, double-check to see if the IRS has issued your stimulus payment yet—you can do this online using the Get My Payment tool, or you can look to see if you’ve gotten a physical Notice 1444-B yet.
If you’ve thoroughly checked to make sure your payment hasn’t been issued, you can file your taxes and claim the stimulus money you were expecting through the RRC. If your payment has been issued, deciding when to file and what to claim depends on the timing.
Here are the timelines for your payment arrival based on the method of delivery:
- 5 days since the deposit date
- Before February 24, 2021 for mailed payments
- March 10, 2021 for mailed payments if you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office for the first EIP
- March 31, 2021 for mailed payments if you have a foreign address for the first EIP
Has it been longer than the timeline above? If not, you can either wait it out or go ahead and file and claim the missing stimulus money through RRC. However, keep in mind that the IRS will adjust your refund if it shows that you both received the stimulus money and claimed it on your return, and this will delay processing your refund because your return will be routed through IRS error corrections. That delay could be 1 to 2 months.
If it has been longer than the timeline above, you should follow the steps shown in Q F3 on this page to request a payment trace to signal the IRS of the missing amount. Since payment tracing can take up to six weeks, the IRS suggests you go ahead and file your tax return and claim your missing EIP2 through the Recovery Rebate Credit.
If the payment trace determines that your stimulus check wasn’t cashed, the IRS will reverse the payment and notify you. If the check was cashed, you’ll receive instructions from the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service. Finally, if you find the check after requesting a payment trace, you should return the check as soon as possible.
If I claim the RRC and then get EIP2 afterward, do I have to let the IRS know?
Nope! You won’t have to take any additional action, so there’s no paperwork or online portal hoops for you to jump through, and you won’t need to amend your tax return. Instead, the IRS will automatically adjust your RRC amount based on their EIP payment records—if you are expecting a refund, it will be smaller due to the adjustment. The downside, as mentioned before, is that any refund that requires adjustment due to an error will take longer to process.
What if the IRS sends my refund before they realize I’ve gotten my second stimulus payment?
This situation is unlikely. The IRS won’t start processing anyone’s tax return until February 12, and most people should have received EIP2 long before then. If you don’t get it by then, your payment was likely lost, stolen, or destroyed—more on that in this blog post. (Even in that case, you would still claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, so filing before you get EIP2 wouldn’t be an issue).
It’s unlikely, but in the case that the IRS sends you a refund that includes your stimulus money via the RRC even after you’ve gotten EIP2, we’ll keep you updated on what to do.
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