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Federal stimulus checks: Answers to your questions

President Donald Trump's name appears on the coronavirus

President Donald Trump's name appears on the coronavirus economic assistance checks in Washington, D.C., on April 29 that were sent to citizens across the country. Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

More than half of the 150 million Americans eligible for an economic relief payment from the federal government have received their money, but millions more are still waiting for their share of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package known as the CARES Act passed by Congress in late March.

Technical glitches with the Internal Revenue Service website have made it difficult for some Americans to track their payments or update their information, but federal officials insist they are working to ensure the fast release of the money aimed at spurring economic activity. 

Should I have received my money by now?

The federal government is still in the process of distributing payments and has notified lawmakers that it could take until mid-September for the final batch of payments to make it to Americans.

Of the 150 million Americans eligible for a payment, about 88 million have received their checks, according to the latest IRS data, leaving millions more still awaiting their payments. 

The IRS fast tracked the release of money to those with direct deposit bank information already filed with the agency from their 2018 or 2019 tax filings. For those without direct deposit information on file, the federal government started mailing out checks on April 24. 

Checks also are being mailed based on income, with lower earners slated to receive their checks first, according to an IRS timeline.

If I haven’t received my money, where can I check on its status?

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The IRS has set up a “Get My Payment” website that allows you to check on the status of your payment. The website (www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment) has been prone to technical glitches, so be prepared to troubleshoot for some issues that may come up.

Some users, after submitting the required information — Social Security number, date of birth and mailing address from your most recent tax return — have received a message indicating “Payment Status Not Available.” The tech website Mashable reports that some users have found success in typing in their address in all capital letters, or using abbreviations for streets.

The IRS website urges users to check their information against their most recent tax return to ensure the information matches up. The IRS website notes: “You may want to check your most recent tax return or consider if there is a different way to enter your street address (for example, 123 N. Main St. versus 123 North Main St.). You may also verify how your address is formatted with the U.S. Postal Service by entering your address in the USPS ZIP Lookup tool, and then enter your address into Get My Payment exactly as it appears on file with USPS.”

The website also urges users to enter numbers “exactly as they appear on your” tax forms, and “If the numbers from your 2019 tax return are not accepted, try the numbers from your 2018 tax return instead.”

A letter sent out by the Trump administration advising Americans that their payment has been dispersed lists a toll-free number to call for more information, but that number (800-919-9835) only offers automated prompts that offer general information about eligibility requirements.

Is there a way to double-check the amount?

Those individuals who believe they were entitled to more money — whether it be because they have a dependent child that was not immediately reflected in their latest tax return or because their income changed since their last tax filing, will be able to make a claim to receive the additional money when filing their 2020 tax return, according to the IRS. “This is particularly important for individuals who may be entitled to the additional $500 per qualifying child dependent payments,” the IRS website states.

Will I be charged taxes on this money?

The IRS website states that payment recipients will not be taxed on their federal payment. According to the website, “you will not include the payment in your taxable income on your federal income tax return or pay income tax on your payment. It will not reduce your refund or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 federal income tax return. A payment also will not affect your income for purposes of determining eligibility for federal government assistance or benefit programs.”

Can I still add direct deposit information?

The Treasury Department is continuing to encourage Americans to file their direct deposit information. Individuals can check the status of their payment on the IRS’ “Get my Payment” website. If a payment has not already been sent by mail, individuals are allowed to enter their bank information on the website. Individuals who are not required to file their income taxes (typically those that have no income to report, or earn $12,000 or less individually or $24,000 or less in a joint filing) are asked to submit their direct deposit information through a separate IRS portal found at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here

What if I think they mailed it to my old address?

Individuals should first check the IRS’ “Get My Payment” website to check whether their check has indeed gone out in the mail. If it has not, individuals can update their address by submitting their 2019 tax return with the updated information, according to the IRS website. The IRS press office did not offer additional guidance when asked by Newsday about the possibility of a check already being mailed to an outdated address, but one official said individuals should also ensure the Postal Service has their most recent address by submitting a change-of-address form.

What if a deceased family member received a payment?

Amid reports that deceased Americans have received payments, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told The Wall Street Journal the money must be returned.

If a paper check was issued, families must write "Void" on the endorsement section in the back of the check and mail it back to the IRS office based on their region, according to new guidelines put out by the IRS on Wednesday. (For New Yorkers, checks can be mailed to Brookhaven Refund Inquiry Unit, 5000 Corporate Ct., Mail Stop 547, Holtsville, NY 11742. A complete list for other states can be found on the IRS website.)

If the check was already cashed or issued via direct deposit, families must mail a check or money order to the IRS in the amount sent to the deceased individual. For those married couples or joint filers who received their deceased spouse's portion, they are only required to return their spouse's allocation.

The IRS indicates a payment must be returned if the person "died before receipt of the payment."

Will we get another stimulus check?

There is no current legislation providing for a second round of payments. Congressional Democrats have floated several proposals for a second wave of direct dollars to Americans, and President Donald Trump told reporters on April 7 that a future round of payments “is absolutely under serious consideration.” But congressional Republicans have pushed back on the prospect citing concerns over the ever-increasing national deficit.

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