With tax season officially underway, many Americans are still asking, “Where is my $600 stimulus check?”
The stimulus payments were authorized by Congress under a $900 billion Covid relief package passed in December. Within days, the federal government began deploying the money.
That included payments of $600 per individual, or $1,200 per married couple filing jointly, plus $600 per child under 17.
Like the first $1,200 stimulus checks the government sent to millions of Americans last spring, the payments are based on income.
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Individuals with adjusted gross income of up to $75,000, heads of household with up to $112,500 and married couples who file jointly with up to $150,000 are eligible for full payments.
To date, more than 147 million of the second stimulus checks, totaling more than $142 billion, have been sent, the IRS said on Tuesday.
In January, people reported issues with the tax agency’s online Get My Payment tool. To get a sense of how widespread the problem was, CNBC.com asked readers whether they were having trouble receiving their payments.
Hundreds of readers responded.
Some wanted to know why they received the first $1,200 direct deposit or paper check with no problem, yet were still waiting on the second. Others who receive Social Security or other federal benefits were wondering why they are still waiting. Some wanted to know why information from the IRS showed the check was mailed, yet there was still no sign of it weeks later.
The IRS said on Tuesday it had issued all “legally permitted” first and second stimulus check payments.
If you are one of the people who is still waiting on your $600 check, there are several steps you can take.
Reassess whether you are eligible for the money
While the $600 payments are similar to the first $1,200 stimulus checks, there are some differences that could affect whether you receive a payment and how much you may receive.
The $600 checks phase out at the same rate as the first payments — checks are reduced by 5% of the amount your adjusted gross income exceeds the thresholds for full payments.
But because it’s a smaller sum, the $600 payments have lower caps than the $1,200 payments did. So individuals with $87,000 in adjusted gross income, heads of household with $124,500 and married couples with $174,000 will generally not receive a payment.
This time, the payments are based on 2019 tax returns, whereas the first checks used either 2018 or 2019. So if your first $1,200 check was based on your 2018 tax filing, and your income has changed substantially since, that could affect the amount.
Other things to be aware of: Eligibility may be affected if you were claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return, if you didn’t have a valid Social Security number or if you’re a non-resident alien. People in those situations are not eligible for the payments.
On the flip side, those who have unpaid debts are still eligible.
“Unlike other tax refunds, the IRS is not permitted to garnish or levy these payments to satisfy other tax debts, so that’s really not an issue,” said Joe Bishop-Henchman, vice president at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.
Use IRS tools to find out more about your payment
There’s no better time to think about next year’s taxes than right after you file this year.
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When it comes to getting answers to your questions, make sure you consult an official source.
When we put out an inquiry to troubleshoot where people were running into issues, some people responded with their full names, addresses and Social Security numbers.
Please do not submit this information to anyone until you are sure they can check on the status of your payment for you. Generally, that means just the IRS.
Beware of scammers who will try to impersonate the government tax agency in order to obtain your personal financial information.
The IRS has set up ways for people to check on their payment.
That includes an online tool called Get My Payment. However, the IRS now states on its website that that tool will no longer be updated for either the first or second stimulus checks.
If the Get My Payment site shows a direct deposit date and some of your bank account information, then your money should be there. If you do not recognize the account number, that does not necessarily mean the funds went to the wrong place, according to the IRS. As such, you do not have to file an identity theft affidavit to alert the IRS to suspicious activity.
If instead the Get My Payment website shows a mail date for your check, the IRS advises that it could take up to three to four weeks before it arrives. Be on the lookout for either a paper check or debit card, which will come in an envelope with the U.S. Treasury seal on it.
If, after that, you still have questions about the whereabouts of your payment, there is another thing you can do: request a payment trace.
A certain amount of time has to have passed before you can initiate a trace. For direct deposits, that’s five days from the date it was deposited, provided the bank has no record of receiving the payment.
For the second $600 stimulus check, that’s starting from Feb. 24 if the check was mailed to a standard address. If you have a forwarding address on file with the Post Office, you’ll want to wait until March 10. Individuals and families with foreign addresses should give it until March 31.
Payment traces should not be used to find out if you are eligible or to check to see how much money you stand to receive.
For help with specific questions on the economic impact payments, the IRS has set up a phone number for live assistance. However, the agency states that help is “extremely limited at this time.” A separate phone number is available for people who have questions on stimulus debit card payments.
File for recovery rebate credit with your tax return
If your efforts still yield no payment, you can file for a recovery rebate credit when you send in your taxes this spring.
“According to the IRS, they’ve made all the payments, so if you haven’t gotten it in the mail, you’re probably going to have to go the tax form route,” Bishop-Henchman said.
Those who are eligible for the recovery rebate credit include people who received either no stimulus checks or direct payments that were for less than they were owed.
If you already received some money, the credit you receive will be reduced by that amount.
Individuals and families who typically do not file their taxes, often because their income is too low, will have to do so this year in order to obtain the credit.
A worksheet is available with Forms 1040 and 1040-SR (a tax return form for seniors) to help you determine whether or not you qualify for the money.
In addition, free filing tools through the IRS and certain tax preparation sites can help individuals and families submit their information in order to receive the credit without having to pay.