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Published: Mar 19, 2021 7 min read
Stimulus check puzzle with a couple of pieces undone
Money; Shutterstock; Getty Images

The IRS has sent out roughly 90 million stimulus payments since the American Rescue Plan became law on March 11. The $1,400-per-person checks are the the third round of direct aid that's been approved during the coronavirus crisis, so you'd think by now the process would be friction-free.

But there are still kinks. Online forums and social media are full of questions about the timeline, eligibility, amounts and more for the latest set of Economic Impact Payments.

Admittedly, the third round of checks is moving fast. President Joe Biden signed the bill a day earlier than his team had announced, and the Get My Payment tool updated two days before the IRS had said it would. The IRS has already distributed some $242 billion via direct deposit and put 150,000 paper checks in the mail. Stimulus check debit cards are on their way, too.

If you're having trouble with your third stimulus check, or wondering if you're even eligible, help is here. Below are eight common problems and how to fix them.

I don't know whether I'm getting a third stimulus.

Solution: According to the text of the American Rescue Plan, the only people who don't qualify for the third stimulus check are nonresident aliens and dependents claimed on someone else's taxes. Unless you're in one of those two categories — or, uh, dead — you're eligible. You can also expect to receive $1,400 for each dependent you have.

However, there are income limits. If you're a single filer who makes $75,000 or less, or a married couple who makes $150,000 or less, you're eligible for the full $1,400 payment. Above those income thresholds, the stimulus amounts decrease and eventually reach zero.

Want to actually find out where your stimulus check is? Visit the Get My Payment page on the IRS website, put in your personal information, and it should tell you the status of your $1,400.

I haven't gotten a stimulus check yet.

Solution: Be patient. Though some people got their $1,400 last weekend, the government has really only just begun distributing the third Economic Impact Payment.

"Additional batches and payments will be sent in the coming weeks by direct deposit and through the mail as a check or debit card," the IRS said in a news release. "No action is needed by most taxpayers; the payments are automatic and, in many cases, similar to how people received their first and second round of Economic Impact Payments in 2020."

My stimulus was based on old info from my 2019 tax return, and I didn't qualify for the full amount then.

Solution: File your 2020 tax return (by May 17).

There's an additional payment determination date on the horizon. This summer, the IRS is planning to review all the stimulus checks it sent based on 2019 data, then settle up with anyone it owes more based on 2020 data. If your income dropped between 2019 and 2020, it's in your best interest to get the right income information on file.

I earn too much money to qualify for the full stimulus.

Solution: Your third stimulus check is based on your adjusted gross income, abbreviated AGI. If you make $80,000 or more as a single filer or $160,000 or more as a joint filer, you won't receive a direct payment.

However, it's not too late to lower your 2020 AGI. You can make contributions to an individual retirement account or health savings account through at least April 15.

If you do this and your contributions bring your income below the cut-off when you file your 2020 taxes, your adjustment will likely show up when the IRS does its aforementioned additional payment determination later this year. If you've already filed your 2020 taxes, you may have to submit an amended return in order to get the additional stimulus money you're owed. It's unclear exactly how that will work.

My $1,400 went to a closed bank account.

Solution: Watch the mail. In these situations, according to the IRS, "the bank returns the deposit and you may have been issued a check mailed to the address we have on file for you."

Unfortunately, you can't change the bank account the IRS used for your third stimulus check.

My stimulus check was the wrong amount.

Solution: If you recently had a baby, chances are the IRS doesn't know yet. You might find your stimulus check missing $1,400 for your diapered dependent.

To rectify this, follow the above advice. File a 2020 tax return and/or wait for the additional payment determination date, set for 90 days after the tax filing deadline or Sept. 1, whichever comes first. If that doesn't work, you can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2021 tax return (the one you'll file next spring). The IRS will either increase your refund or decrease your tax bill by the amount you're owed.

If you have the opposite problem, and you believe your stimulus was too high because it was based on old income data, you're in the clear. In general, the IRS is not clawing back money it mistakenly gave out.

Get My Payment says "Payment Status Not Available."

Solution: Check back later. When the tool returns a "Payment Status Not Available" message, it means the IRS has either not processed your stimulus, doesn't have enough data for you or you don't qualify.

"We will continue to send the 2021 Economic Impact Payment to eligible individuals throughout 2021," it adds.

I think I need to talk to the IRS.

Solution: The IRS is seriously understaffed right now — that's partially why it made the decision to postpone Tax Day. Even its website warns that "live phone assistance is extremely limited at this time."

But if you need help with your third stimulus check, you can still try calling. The IRS phone number for stimulus check questions is 800-919-9835.

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