What do I do if I didn’t get my stimulus checks?

By Christine Tran, 2020 Get It Back Campaign Intern

If you didn’t get your first or second stimulus check, don’t worry — you can still claim the payment in 2021 as a tax credit. The stimulus checks are a federal tax credit for the 2020 tax year, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. You can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit by filing your taxes in 2021 for Tax Year 2020. The deadline to file your taxes this year is May 17, 2021.

Filing your taxes will also ensure that you receive your third stimulus check if you haven’t yet. The third stimulus check will be deposited or sent separately from your tax refund.

First Stimulus Check

If you did not qualify for a stimulus check based on your 2018 or 2019 taxes, you can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit if you are eligible based on your 2020 tax return. For example, if you were claimed as a dependent on someone else’s 2019 tax return  (see Q C6), you were not eligible for a stimulus check. However, if that changed in 2020 and you meet the other eligibility requirements, you can claim the credit on your 2020 federal tax return.

Eligibility rules for the first stimulus check has changed. For example, if you are incarcerated and did not receive your first stimulus check, you can also claim the tax credit on your tax return. If your family was denied a stimulus check because only one spouse has a Social Security Number (SSN), that rule has now changed. The spouse with the SSN and qualifying children with SSNs can claim the first stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on your 2020 tax return. If you’re a military family, only spouse needs to have an SSN for both spouses to claim the first stimulus check. If you are missing money from the first stimulus check, claim the amount by filing a tax return.

You can also claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return if you did not receive the full amount of the stimulus check you are eligible for. For example, some people did not receive the additional $500 for dependents who are under 17 (see Q C5). If your income decreased in 2020 and you only received a partial stimulus check because of your 2018 or 2019 income (see Q B12), you could claim the additional money when you file your 2020 federal tax return.

Second Stimulus Check

If you did not qualify for the second stimulus check based on your 2019 taxes, you can also claim the Recovery Rebate Credit if you are eligible based on your 2020 tax return. Please note that some of the second stimulus check’s eligibility rules are different than that of the first stimulus check’s.

For example, if you were claimed as a dependent on someone else’s 2019 tax return, you were not eligible for a stimulus check. However, if that changed in 2020 and you meet the other eligibility requirements, you can claim the credit on your 2020 federal tax return.

If your second stimulus check was sent to a bank account that is closed or no longer active, the IRS will not be reissuing the payment by mail. Instead, you will have to file a 2020 tax return to the claim the check as the Recovery Rebate Credit.

You can also claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return if you did not receive the full amount of the second stimulus check you are eligible for. For example, if your second stimulus check doesn’t reflect all of your qualifying dependents or if your income decreased in 2020 and you only received a partial stimulus check because of your 2019 income, you could claim the additional money when you file your 2020 federal tax return.

Third Stimulus Check

If you did not qualify for the third stimulus check based on your 2019 taxes, you can still qualify for the third stimulus check based on your 2020 taxes. If you have not received your third stimulus check, file your taxes in 2021 for Tax Year 2020. Your third stimulus check may  come as a separate deposit or check from your regular tax refund.

How do I claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on my tax return?

You can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when you are filing your tax return. Tax software, such as MyFreeTaxes, H&R Block, or TurboTax, will automatically help determine if you qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit.

If you received your first and/or second stimulus check, you’ll need to know the amount you have gotten for each check. If you haven’t received one or both stimulus checks, you will be asked questions to help confirm your eligibility and amount owed.

This is an example of how to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit through MyFreeTaxes tax software.

To find the amount of stimulus payment(s) you’ve received, you can refer to the IRS notices that were mailed to you. IRS Notice 1444 shows how much you received from the first stimulus check and IRS Notice 1444-B shows how much you received from the second stimulus check. You can also check your bank statements if you had your payments direct deposited. If you no longer have the IRS notice(s) or received a paper check, you can provide this information based on memory. The IRS will correct the amount for you if you made a mistake. However, this can slightly delay the processing of your tax return. The IRS will notify you of any changes made to your tax return.

The IRS also allows you to view your stimulus check amounts by creating an account on IRS.gov/account. To create an account, you will need:

  1. Basic information: full name, email, birthday, Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), tax filing status, and current address.
  2. A number from ONE of your financial accounts as the last 8 digits of your VISA, Mastercard, or Discover credit card or the loan account number of one of the following types of loans: student loan, mortgage loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, OR an auto loan.

The tax software will calculate the total amount that you are owed. If your income is $72,000 and below, you can use IRS Free File to prepare and file your federal income tax online for free. If you earn less than about $56,000, you can also use the IRS VITA Locator tool or visit AARP Foundation Tax-Aide to find a free tax site near you.

If you are doing your taxes without the help of software or would like to calculate the Recovery Rebate Credit yourself, you can use the Recovery Rebate Credit Calculation Instructions here.

When will I get the Recovery Rebate Credit?

You will get the Recovery Rebate Credit as part of your 2020 tax refund. It will not be sent separately. If you electronically file your tax return, you will usually receive your refund within 3 weeks. If you mail your return, you will usually receive your refund within 8 weeks.

Claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit will not delay your tax refund. However, if you don’t claim the correct amount of the Recovery Rebate Credit, your refund may be delayed while the IRS corrects the error on your return. The IRS will send you a notice of any changes made to your return.

You can check on the status of your refund using the IRS Check My Refund Status tool.

Need help with your taxes?

The Free Tax Filing page can help you find the best resource to help you file your taxes for free. The deadline to file your taxes this year is May 17, 2021.


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