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trouble getting your stimulus check

Since the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act – a $2 trillion package designed to help individuals and small businesses – most Americans have focused on one program in particular: the personal stimulus checks for the majority of Americans to help them get through the COVID-19 crisis. But many Americans are anxious and frustrated by the fact that they have yet to receive their money. If you want to make the most of your stimulus money and your income more generally, consider working with a financial advisor to put your money to work for you.

Should I Have Received a Stimulus Check?

The coronavirus stimulus checks — whose value is based on your adjusted gross income (AGI), with the maximum amount for singles set at $1,200 and for married couples at $2,400 — began to be deposited into citizens’ bank accounts on April 15. Almost immediately, some people began to wonder why they hadn’t received their stimulus check, and “payment status not available” immediately began trending on social media.

If you haven’t gotten your stimulus check and you’re wondering why, the first step is to see if you are in fact eligible for a check. While most Americans will get one, there are some requirements you need to make sure you tick before you move on to figuring out why you haven’t seen your cash yet.

First, you need to be either a U.S. citizen or a resident alien. Non-resident aliens, such as those who are new arrivals on student visas, won’t be eligible for these stimulus checks. Undocumented citizens also won’t be eligible for these checks. You also must have a valid Social Security number.

Second, you can’t be someone else’s dependent. This includes children and students. Essentially, if someone else, such as a parent, claims you as a dependent on his or her tax return, you won’t be eligible for this stimulus check.

Third, people who filed their taxes with certain forms won’t be eligible. If you used any of the following tax forms in 2019, you shouldn’t expect a stimulus check:

  • Form 1040-NR
  • Form 1040NR-EZ
  • Form 1040-PR
  • Form 1040-SS

Finally, there is the money requirement. The program is means-tested, meaning that how much money you get depends on how much income you claimed on your last tax return. This includes cutoffs, income levels above which you get no check at all. For a single person, this is $99,000. For someone filing taxes as the head of household, it is $136,500, and for married couples it is $198,000. If you earned more in income than that total in whichever category applies to you for the last year for which you’ve filed taxes (2018 or 2019), you won’t be getting a stimulus check.

Note that there is also a $500 payment to each household for every child you have, which is not dependent on income. Use SmartAsset’s stimulus check calculator to see how much money you can expect to receive.

Why Haven’t I Gotten My Stimulus Check Yet?

trouble getting your stimulus check

If you’ve gone through all the above requirements and made sure you qualify but still haven’t gotten your check, there are a few things you can do to check on your status and make sure the money is being directed to the right place.

Use the IRS Tool to Check Your Status

The IRS has a tool called “Get My Payment” that you can use to check on the status of your payment. Some people who believe they should be getting checks but haven’t yet are getting the message “Payment Status Not Available.” The IRS provides a few next-step tactics to take:

1. Make sure you qualify and have filed your taxes.

Double check that there isn’t any reason you wouldn’t qualify for this stimulus payment. After that, make sure you have filed income taxes in recent years. If for any reason you didn’t file a return in 2018 or 2019, you will not have gotten your money yet. If you didn’t file a tax return but believe you are still eligible for this stimulus, you can fill out your payment information here. The IRS will process it, and you will eventually get your payment if you qualify.

2. See if you used direct deposit on your most recent tax return.

If you filed your taxes but still haven’t gotten a check, look back at your last tax return. If you owed money or if you got a refund  but opted not to use direct deposit, the IRS won’t have your bank information on file. In this instance, rather than getting a deposit in your bank account, you’ll be receiving a check in the mail. These checks obviously take longer to arrive than a simple wire transfer, so give it some time. Furthermore, the checks aren’t expected to go out all at once and will be sent over the next few weeks.

3. Check if you used an online tax service.

If you filed your tac return with a preparer like TurboTax or H&R Block, there may be a problem because of how theses companies charge fees. You should use this portal to enter your bank information if this applies to you.

What If My Check Is for the Wrong Amount?

No system is perfect, and there’s always a chance you’ll get your check and think you’ve gotten too much or too little based on your income or family status.

If you think you received too much, don’t worry. Even if your income now is much higher than it was the last time you paid your taxes — say you got a new job at the beginning of 2020 that bumped your income from $60,000 to $100,000, putting you out of eligibility for the checks — you won’t be expected to pay the check back. Enjoy your money, or consider donating it to a charity helping vulnerable people deal with this crisis.

On the flip side, if you believe you got too little — say you lost your job in January and your income for 2020 is much lower than it was when you filed your last tax return, or if you’ve had a child since you filed — there will be a provision for you to get the money you deserve based on your current income. This will involve next year’s tax return, and the mechanism hasn’t been disclosed yet. That may not be much solace right now, but know there is a chance you’ll be able to claim more money down the line.

Bottom Line

trouble getting your stimulus check

If you qualify for a stimulus check and you used direct deposit for your last tax return, you should have already gotten your stimulus money in your bank account. If you haven’t, check to make sure you are eligible and that all the direct deposit information you’ve entered is still accurate. If you qualify for a check but haven’t gotten the deposit, there’s a chance the IRS doesn’t have information for a bank account to deposit your money in, and you’ll be getting a physical check in the coming weeks.

Tips For Managing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • A financial advisor can help you make the most of your stimulus check and your money more generally. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in just five minutes. Get started now.
  • If you are looking for more help with this crisis, take a look at SmartAsset’s list of programs to help individuals.

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Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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