Americans have received conflicting information on when they will receive stimulus checks due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. But there’s good news: Checks will be hitting their bank accounts soon.
The first wave of $1,200 stimulus payments is on track to be paid the week of April 13, according to Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant at TurboTax. The government is prioritizing the first few waves of payments in the coming weeks toward low-income Americans and Social Security beneficiaries, Greene-Lewis says.
“Direct deposit is the quickest way that people will receive their money,” Greene-Lewis says. “Then the IRS will work on issuing the paper checks.”
Some Americans were confused following conflicting reports from different corners of the government in recent weeks. The IRS said at the end of March stimulus payments would start being distributed within three weeks.
Shortly afterward, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on April 2 the first stimulus payments would arrive in some taxpayers’ accounts via direct deposit within two weeks. Then Larry Kudlow, senior economic adviser to President Donald Trump, said this week that checks could go out this week or next. Others have said they could have come as early as April 9.
The IRS didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
About 80% of Americans are eligible to receive a stimulus payment, according to the IRS. Cash will be distributed by the agency, so Americans who have received prior tax refunds via direct deposit will get rebate checks faster than those waiting on paper checks. The IRS is expected to start sending paper checks on April 24.
Most U.S. adults with a Social Security number will receive a payment, as long as they aren’t claimed as dependents by someone else. If you don’t have direct deposit, a check will be mailed to the address on file.
If you haven’t set up direct deposit with the IRS, you can register through an online portal the agency expects to open soon. If your address has changed, you can notify the IRS by mailing a 8822 change of address form or call the IRS to report your new address. It may take time to process change of address forms in the next few weeks, so experts suggest calling.
How do I get relief money?
The emergency stimulus checks could be as much as $1,200 per person, $2,400 for married couples filing taxes jointly and $500 per dependent child.
Income amounts for the payments made this year are based on 2019 tax returns, or 2018 tax returns for people who haven’t filed their 2019 return yet.
Those who are eligible for relief payments don’t have to do anything to get it, and if they filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return with direct deposit information on it, the money will be deposited there when the IRS issues payments.
Do Social Security recipients need to file a tax return?
Social Security income recipients don’t need to file a return to get their stimulus payment. It will be calculated based on information from their SSA-1099 Social Security Benefit Statement for 2019 or RRB-1099 Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement and deposited by the IRS.
Low-income Americans on Social Security who don’t file a return are still eligible, says Dina Pyron, financial services partner and global TaxChat leader at Ernst & Young. As long as they receive a SSA-1099 form, the IRS knows where to find them since they have their address or pay them the way they receive Social Security.
What if I didn't earn enough to file a return?
There are as many as 10 million Americans who aren’t required to file a tax return, according to TurboTax. In an effort to help, the tax-prep software company launched a free Stimulus Registration product in partnership with the IRS that will allow those who aren’t required to file a tax return to register with the IRS to get their stimulus money.
You can calculate how much you should receive with TurboTax’s stimulus calculator.
To be sure, low income families without a bank account will likely wait longer for their stimulus money. While only 6% of people in the U.S. don’t have a bank account, according to data from U.S. Financial Health Pulse, those who make less than $30,000 a year have an unbanked rate of 17%, or about 12 million people.
“Once again, the greatest burdens will be shouldered by the most vulnerable among us, when instead we should be doing everything to give them a leg up,” Jennifer Tescher, president and CEO of Financial Health Network, a non-profit authority on consumer financial health, said in a note.