April 19, 2021

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IRS stimulus check delivery: Timeline update, who’s left out, what might still go wrong – CNET

6 min read

If you didn’t get your stimulus check, when’s it coming? If you did, are you sure you got the right amount? Here’s what to know.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As the IRS and Treasury continue to send stimulus checks of up to $1,400, tens of millions of people are waiting their turn. An estimated 17 million more direct deposit and 20 million paper checks and EIP debit cards will be sent this week, but by Wednesday afternoon, the agencies have remained mum on a payment timeline for people who receive Social Security and other federal benefits, including SSDI and SSI recipients, veterans and retired railroad workers. A group of Democratic lawmakers is demanding answers, while the IRS says it’s working with the Social Security Administration and Railroad Retirement Board to get data and the SSA promises a Q&A page “soon.” 

For others, the path to a stimulus check could also face a holdup. If you don’t get your payment through direct deposit by today, you’ll receive it in the mail. The USPS is currently experiencing delays, according to The New York Times. It could take months for some people to receive their full stimulus check total, for example if the IRS uses your 2019 taxes to calculate your share, but owes you more money based on your 2020 taxes. (Here’s how to track your payment with the IRS and US Postal Service.) 

It’s also possible you may not qualify for the new round of stimulus checks, or that you’re eligible for a full or partial stimulus payment, but your group has different details or rules to know. For example, older adults, parents in a child-support situation, income tax nonfilers, mixed-status citizenship family members and people who live in US territories could potentially face complications. And what happens if you have a problem with your stimulus check? We’ll go over these scenarios below. While you’re here, this is the story so far on a fourth stimulus check. This story was recently updated.

Stimulus check delivery status update

People who don’t receive direct deposit by March 24 (that’s today) “should watch the mail carefully in the coming weeks for a paper check or a prepaid debit card, known as an Economic Impact Payment Card, or EIP Card,” the Treasury said this week.

An estimated 37 million additional payments are going out this week, The Washington Post reported. That’s on top of the roughly 90 million payments already sent, the majority through direct deposit. Twenty million are expected for direct deposit, with 17 million anticipated to go out in the mail.

With mail delays on the horizon, it isn’t clear how long it will take from the time the IRS or Treasury sends your payment to the date it’s received. But it could take days or in some cases weeks. Other additional complications could also hold up your payment. If you moved recently, tell the IRS and USPS.

Stimulus check delivery dates

Stimulus bill passed Congress March 10
Stimulus bill signed into law March 11
First direct deposit sent March 12 (provisional), March 17 (official)
First paper checks sent Week of March 15
First EIP cards sent Week of March 22
Last day to get direct deposit March 24
SSI and SSDI checks sent Not yet announced
IRS deadline to finish sending checks Dec. 31, 2021 (mandated by the bill)
Last date to receive a check January 2022 (if mailed checks sent late December)
Claims for missing stimulus money open 2021 tax season likely (in 2022)

Yes, you can track your stimulus check status online

The IRS updates its Get My Payment tracker tool for stimulus checks daily. This online app shows you the status of your payment, including when a check is scheduled for delivery. The IRS portal can also flag if there’s a problem with your payment that you may need to address, but it doesn’t tell you the amount you’ll receive. You can use a free tool from the USPS to track your mailed stimulus payment.

Now playing: Watch this: Stimulus check 3: How much money you’ll get


What could hold up or divide your stimulus payment

What do you do if there’s a problem with your check?

Sorry, but the IRS really doesn’t want you to call if you have any issue with the delivery or amount of your stimulus check. So what should you do instead? We have a guide that walks you through how to report stimulus check problems, including checks that never arrive (try filing a payment trace), direct deposit payments that go to the wrong account and more. 


How you get your stimulus check could influence how soon your payment arrives.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Why your 2019 tax return could delay your full payment

Taxes are now due May 17. So how will the IRS figure out how much it owes you? It will calculate your total (you can also do that here) based on the most recent tax filing it’s processed at the time it’s ready to tabulate your check.

If you filed your 2020 taxes early and you know your tax return was already processed, your total will likely be based on your 2020 adjusted gross income, not on your 2019 AGI. That presents complications if the difference between the two years disqualifies you from getting a third stimulus check

On the flipside, if the IRS uses your 2019 taxes and you’re owed more money based on your 2020 AGI and dependents, you’ll need to claim the difference at a later date. (Learn more about some of the stimulus check exceptions and catches here.)

If the IRS owes you missing money, you have to claim it later

There are several reasons the IRS may owe you stimulus money after it sends out the third round of checks. Maybe the agency processed your 2019 tax return instead of 2020 and there was a discrepancy. Or maybe you had a baby in 2020 that you still need to claim as a dependent. Maybe a clerical error accidentally left out a new dependent. Perhaps your payment never arrived or was accidentally garnished

Whatever the reason, the IRS may provide a way to file for missing stimulus money before the Dec. 31 deadline. If not, you might have to wait a year to claim it, when you file your 2021 taxes in 2022 (even if you’re a nonfiler who isn’t typically required to file taxes).


The first two stimulus checks were nominally sorted by different payment groups, and one had a clear advantage over the others.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The IRS can keep sending stimulus payments through December

Although the IRS and Treasury are sending stimulus checks now, the agencies have until Dec. 31, 2021, to complete distributing the third payments. That’s good news in the sense they aren’t facing a compressed deadline to send out all the checks, as they did with the second stimulus check in December, which only provided them a 17-day window to get the payments out. On the other hand, the nearly nine-month total delivery window also means some people may find themselves waiting, for a variety of reasons. We’ll have to wait and see how the IRS deals with any fringe issues that arise. 

More stimulus check guides these groups should know

Stimulus checks aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation. Here are additional guides for:

And here’s everything you need to know about the third stimulus check, how to calculate your stimulus total and every way the stimulus bill can bring you more money.

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