What to Do If You Haven't Received Your Stimulus Check or It's for the Wrong Amount

The rollout of IRS stimulus payments has been less smooth than many hoped.

The IRS has sent 130 million Americans their COVID-19 stimulus payments, but millions more are still waiting for theirs. In April, the IRS sent money to individuals who had filed their 2018 or 2019 taxes and received a refund by direct deposit for one of those years, as well as Social Security recipients who use direct deposit and hadn't filed a tax return.

In May, individuals who used the IRS's Get My Payment tool to give the IRS their bank information have started to receive their direct deposits. (Individuals who filed a tax return but hadn't received a refund from the IRS by direct deposit either have to log on to submit bank information or wait for a paper check.)

Check the Get My Payment Tool

The IRS website has set up a tool on its website called Get My Payment. Up until May 13, you were able to use this tool to provide direct deposit information to the IRS. You can still log on to get your payment status and the date you can expect to receive your stimulus check, or the date it was deposited.

Many people, however, have not had luck using the Get My Payment tool, or the information they get from the tool shows there's a problem with their payment. The IRS has fixed some of the problems, including payment status for closed bank accounts and the ability to enter a zero for the question about refund amount or amount owed.

If you were able to enter your direct deposit information by noon (ET) on Tuesday, May 12, you should be able to log back in beginning Saturday, May 16 to get your payment date, which is likely to be a few days later. (If you entered direct deposit information late Tuesday or early Wednesday, you should be able to log back in beginning Saturday, May 23 to get your payment date.)

Here are some of the issues people are seeing, either with their actual deposit or with the Get My Payment tool.

I Got a "Payment Status Not Available" Message

Millions of people have logged into the IRS's Get My Payment tool only to see this message: Payment Status Not Available. Some individuals who get this message are eligible for the stimulus payment and have filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019, but did not receive a refund from the IRS through direct deposit last year. The IRS is adding data for thousands of people at a time, so if you still see this message, check back in a few days to see if the information has been updated.

The IRS also says that individuals who haven't filed a tax return, Social Security and SSI recipients, veterans, and those who recently used the IRS's non-filer tool to file a simple tax return will see this message.

Others who have seen this message are clearly not eligible for the stimulus money, but the tool only says "we cannot determine your eligibility for a payment at this time."

Note that payments for Social Security recipients who have not filed tax returns went out on April 29, and payments for SSI and veterans benefits recipients were expected May 13. The IRS has not clarified whether the Get My Payment tool will be updated with payment information when these payments go out.

Trouble Entering Information Into the Tool

When you try to use the tool, the IRS will ask you several questions to verify your identity, including some numbers from your 2018 or 2019 tax return, such as how much was the amount of your refund. People who neither owed taxes or received a refund had trouble entering a zero, but the IRS fixed that problem.

If you didn't owe taxes or get a refund on your last tax return, you can select either “I received a refund” or “I owed money” and enter "0" for the “Refund Amount or Amount You Owed.”

If you requested no refund on your last tax return because you applied all or part of your refund toward your estimated taxes, the IRS says you should enter the total amount of the refund you requested from line 21a of your 2019 tax return or line 20a of your 2018 tax return. Those who applied all of their refunds toward their estimated taxes will enter "0."

Note that if the IRS already has direct deposit information for you from a tax return, you will not be able to change it using the Get My Payment tool.

My Stimulus Payment Went to the Wrong Bank Account

If you're successful in getting information from the Get My Payment tool, the tool will tell you what bank account your stimulus payment will be deposited into. Some individuals have seen that the deposit is going to an old bank account, or they even see bank account numbers that they don't recognize.

If your stimulus payment gets sent to a closed bank account, the bank is likely to transfer the money back to the IRS and the IRS will put your name back into the pool for getting a paper check. In the future, you may be able to log back into Get My Payment and add more current bank account information.

If the tool says that your payment was deposited into your bank account but you haven't seen it yet, your bank may still be processing it.

My Stimulus Payment Is Too Low

Some individuals had too much income in 2018 to qualify for the stimulus payment but their income decreased enough in 2019 for them to qualify. (Read the details on eligibility in our article with a stimulus check calculator). In its rush to get payments out, the IRS appears to have based many stimulus payments on individuals' 2018 tax returns, leaving these people with a reduced stimulus payment or no stimulus payment. If you fall into this category, in 2021, you'll be eligible for the stimulus money you didn't get— you’ll either wind up owing less for the 2020 tax year or you'll get a larger refund on your federal tax return in April 2021.

In other cases, families have received stimulus payments by direct deposit but the IRS neglected to pay $500 for one or more of their children. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be a reason for this (the family e-filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 claiming the child tax credit for all of their children). For other families, it seems the IRS is not updating the number of children that taxpayers have, even for families who claimed new children on their 2019 tax returns. Part of this issue can be explained by the coronavirus shutdown. The IRS hasn't been processing paper 2019 tax returns, so if you added a child to your 2019 tax return, the IRS may not have gotten the information into its system.

You'll be able to claim the rest of the stimulus payment when you file next year's tax return in April 2021—unless the issue is resolved beforehand.

Note that individuals who receive Social Security disability, SSI, or veterans benefits were supposed to submit non-filer information to the IRS (unless they filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019) to get the extra $500 for each child under 17. Parents who received SSI had until May 5, while parents who receive SSDI had until April 22 to file this information. Those who missed the deadline will have to file a tax return in 2021 to get the extra $500 per child.

My Stimulus Payment Is Too High

Some individuals whose income increased too much in 2019 were not eligible for a full stimulus payment, but they got one anyway since the IRS based the payment on their 2018 taxes. Those individuals should not have to pay back the payment.

In other cases, families have been paid an extra $500 for children who were 17 or older (families are supposed to get $500 for each child who are under 17). This could happen if the IRS took the number of children who qualified for the child tax credit in 2018 without updating children's ages for 2019. But in other cases, it looks like the IRS took the number of dependents from a family's 2018 tax return, without regard to their age. It's not expected that the IRS will try to claw back overpayments like this, but if you received an extra $500 for a child who is 17 or older, it's wise to keep it in savings rather than spending it, in case the IRS asks for it back next April.

How Can You Correct Mistakes?

The IRS is expected to send letters by mail within 15 days of making a direct deposit or sending a paper check. That letter will tell you the amount of your stimulus payment and how it was made. The letter is also supposed to give you instructions on fixing issues with your payment. Hopefully, though, the IRS will fix some of the existing problems over the next couple of weeks. So the best advice for the time being is: wait and see. This is tough advice for families who haven't received their stimulus money and need it for bills and groceries, but at the moment, there isn't a lot they can do. We'll update this page with new information as soon as the IRS releases it.

Updated May 13, 2020

Talk to a Tax Attorney

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Get Professional Help

Talk to a Tax attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you