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6 stimulus check pitfalls you should know now that tax season is here


Stimulus control rules can get complicated and fast.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Has it The IRS still owes you incentive moneyYou are not alone. Millions of Americans will use their 2021 taxes to claim a payment. If you have the first or second stimulus controlcan you a Refund Discount as part of this year’s tax cycle.

The IRS is now accepting tax returns for 2020, but you have until April 15 to submit (here’s what you need to know about submit an extensionJust 24 hours after you file your taxes online, you can start tracking the status of your tax refund (The IRS is asking taxpayers not to file paper returns this year if possible to help speed up the process).

It sounds simple, but there are some important ways the rules have changed between the IRS proactively sending out checks and you having to claim your payment as part of a tax credit. The new situation may help ensure that you are not missing incentive money on time – or not at all. Here’s what you need to know right now about exceptions that could interfere with your claim. (And here are details on one third stimulus check in front of up to $ 1,400, including how soon yours could come, and how tax season can totally affect your third check.) This story was recently updated.

The IRS must process your tax return before you receive any money

After you file your taxes with your Recovery Rebate Credit form, you will have to wait for the IRS to process your tax refund. If you apply for the credit and owe money, you will see either the amount of your tax refund increased or the amount of tax you owe reduced, depending on the amount of incentive money for which you are eligible

The IRS says it issues most tax refunds within 21 days, but many people will receive theirs much sooner. We have different timelines for when to expect your tax refund based on your situation.

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Recovery discount Credit claims require extra work. Especially for non-filers

Unfortunately, your missing incentive money doesn’t just show up on your tax return. You must submit a form to claim your money as a Recovery Rebate Credit. We have full instructions on how to apply for a Recovery Rebate Credit here, but the basis is:

1. Confirm your payment status online through the IRS

2. When you receive your Tax return 2020 (check out our list of the best tax software), claim your Recovery Rebate Credit on 2020 Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR. The IRS offers recovery discount instructions to help you determine if you are missing a payment and for how much.

3. If you’re applying for a partial check discount, you’ll need the amount calculated from the IRS starting from the letter the IRS sent to confirm your paymentThis was called Notice 1444 for the first payment and Notice 1444-B for the second payment.

If you don’t usually have to file taxes, for example, if you receive SSI or SSDI, or if you retired – you should have automatically received a first and second stimulus check. But if your check never arrived (there were many reasons why this could have happened), you need to file another 2020 tax return this year and claim your Recovery Rebate Credit to claim your missing incentive money. We have instructions on this how non-affiliates can claim this credit

Apply for a tax extension? Prepare to wait longer for your money

You can cancel your tax return at any time before April 15 deadlineHowever, if you need more time, you can file for an extension with the IRS, moving your deadline to October 15th.

You can still claim missing incentive money through a Recovery Rebate Credit if you file your tax return with an extension, but keep in mind that this means your refund will be made later accordingly. For example, if you wait until October 15 to claim it, the earliest money you will get will be on October 22.

You may not get a check if you owe money to the IRS

Below the CARES Act Starting March 2020, your first stimulus check can be used by state and federal agencies to cover child support arrears. That rule changed with the second stimulus check, which couldn’t be done like you owed money for child support

However, these rules are different when you are filing for missing incentive money on your 2020 tax return. For certain outstanding debts – including child support and unpaid student loans – the IRS may withhold some or all of your unpaid incentive payments issued as a chargeback credit when you file your taxes. An independent taxpayer advocacy group within the IRS is working with the agency to address this issue. (Find out more about your stimulus check rights

If you owe the IRS money, you may be wondering, Should I go through the trouble of applying for a Recovery Rebate Credit if the agency is going to take my money? It probably still makes sense for you to do this, as it will help you pay off your debt – even if you can’t access those funds as the laws intended.


The IRS may be able to decorate some of your incentive money if you claim it on your tax return.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Your stimulus check can be garnished even if you claim it because of an IRS error

There were many reasons why you did not receive your first or second stimulus check even though you were eligible, including IRS errors, closed bank accounts, or changed addresses. Unfortunately, even if there was an IRS error, if you don’t have the money as one direct deposit paper check or EIP card, the IRS can claim it to cover your debts when you file it on your tax return.

This is due to a restriction that makes Recovery Rebate Credits subject to regular rules for unpaid federal taxes and certain other debts, so that the credit is treated differently from prepaid stimulus checks.

Any mistake in your third check means you have to wait until next year’s tax season to claim the missing money

Like the first and second checks, during next year’s tax season, 2022, you can claim any missing money from the third check owed to you or your family members. That is far away. The best thing to do now to make sure your third check arrives on time is to file your tax return as soon as possible

4 Ways You Can Possibly Get Your Refund Faster

If you Refund Discount, probably the IRS sent you a letter last fall. If you kept the letter, which the IRS suggested, you need the amount of the payment that is in the letter when you apply this year.

If you can File your taxes by the April 15 deadline, it can mean a faster turnaround time for your refund, if you have to pay for it. Plus, any missing incentive payments are also tied to your taxes this year, so filing earlier would mean a tax refund as well as a stimulus check in one payment. You are also more likely to receive your full payment with the new stimulus check in 2021 because the IRS your third stimulus check about your taxes for 2019 and 2020, according to the latest proposal (PDF) – which is not yet a law.

If you don’t have that direct deposit set up with the IRSIf you set it up when you file your tax return, it could mean you see your refund sooner, especially if you combine it with electronic filing. The IRS has even asked taxpayers not to file paper returns as well, if possible, to avoid further delays.

If you have recently moved or are planning to relocate, this is what you need to do notify the USPS and the IRS of your new addresseven if it is temporary. Keeping your address information up to date will ensure that you receive all of your incentive checks – the possibly missing ones too – and your tax refund.

For more information, check out everything we know about a third stimulus check when it could come and how much money you could get

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