I Think My Stimulus Payment is Lost, Stolen or Ruined—What Do I Do?
by Susannah McQuitty
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You may have heard others celebrate as they get their economic impact payments (EIP2 in this case), but you’re still waiting. Where is it? After all, didn’t the IRS say all payments would be sent by January 15?
In some cases, your payment may simply be delayed because of confusion on the direct deposit side (especially if it was sent to a temporary bank account used last year to pay tax prep fees out of your refund—those accounts are now closed, and the IRS will reissue your payment automatically). Or maybe a fraudster (a really savvy one) figured out how to intercept your payment on its way to your account or mailbox. Or maybe your pooch tore your check to pieces.
Whatever your dilemma, here’s how to determine whether your EIP2 has been lost, stolen or destroyed, and what to do about it in the worst-case scenario.
Has the IRS actually sent my stimulus payment?
Your first stop should be IRS.gov to check the Get My Payment tool. From there, you’ll be able to see when your EIP2 was sent, if it was directly deposited or mailed as a check, where it is headed, and so on. You can also confirm through Get Transcript by requesting an account transcript. Finally, you should have also received Notices 1444 and 1444-B in the mail; these are payment confirmations sent by the IRS roughly 15 days after your stimulus payments were issued.
If the IRS lists your payment as delivered (for direct deposit) or sent (for check or prepaid card), look at the date to see if it falls within the timeline provided below:
- 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
If it’s past the timeline that applies to you, it’s time to request a payment trace. Be sure to only request a payment trace if the IRS has your payment listed as delivered or sent, and you’re outside the timeframe listed above.
What is a payment trace, and how do I request one?
A payment trace will show whether a check was cashed. It may not show what happened to your direct deposit or prepaid debit card, but requesting a payment trace will help prove to the IRS that you never received your payment.
Requesting a payment trace won’t mean you get your stimulus payment sooner, however—the IRS can’t reissue your payment, but you will be able to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return.
If you file your 2020 tax return before the payment trace is complete, the IRS recommends you claim the missing amount via the Recovery Rebate Credit when you file. You may receive a notice saying your Recovery Rebate Credit was changed, but that adjustment will be made after the trace is complete and the IRS determines whether or not your payment has been cashed. You won’t need to take any additional action to receive the credit.
Instructions for requesting a payment trace can be found on this IRS webpage, under Q F3.
File early to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit and get your refund sooner
If your second stimulus payment is missing, you likely won’t receive it before you file your taxes; so, filing as soon as possible is one of the best ways to get your refund sooner. Even though the IRS won’t start processing returns until February 12, filing now will put your return closer to the front of the line when all that work begins.
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