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Originally Published: Apr 06, 2020
Originally Published: Apr 06, 2020 Last Updated: Apr 20, 2020 8 min read
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When will you get your coronavirus stimulus check? Well, the first checks, worth up to $1,200 per person, are being sent to taxpayers by the IRS in mid-April. The IRS sent stimulus payments via direct deposit to many taxpayers on April 15, the same day that the Get My Payment app went live — allowing people to track their payment status.

But some people will get their money — officially called "economic income payments" — much more quickly than others.

The first taxpayers to get payments received them via direct deposit on Wednesday, April 15, or even earlier in some cases. Yet the payment program is a colossal undertaking that will likely take months to complete. It's been estimated that some stimulus check recipients may not receive their payments until August or even September.

How do you get your coronavirus stimulus check as fast as possible? Here are the two key steps to take.

File Your Taxes (if You Haven't Already)

As we've explained in previous stories addressing questions about the CARES Act in general, and the $1,200 stimulus checks in particular, the IRS is using information from your 2018 or 2019 tax returns in order to figure out how much money you get and where to send it.

In other words, if you've filed taxes in 2020 (for the 2019 tax year), or if you filed taxes last year (for the 2018 tax year), then the IRS has all the information it needs to get you a stimulus check. You don't need to take any further action, though you should try to provide the IRS with your bank direct deposit information if you haven't already (see below).

What if you haven't filed taxes for the 2018 or 2019 tax years? Our advice would be that you should submit a simple tax return as soon as possible — even though the deadline for filing taxes has been pushed from April 15 to July 15, and even though some people will get stimulus checks even if they don't file taxes. Or, you could fill out your information (including direct deposit details) at the IRS portal that went live for non-filers on Friday, April 10.

Well over 10 million Americans do not have to file taxes, often either because their income is too low, or the bulk of their income is not taxable. Most of these individuals would qualify for $1,200 stimulus checks, but they may not receive anything if they have not filed their taxes this year or last year.

Chuck Marr, senior director of federal tax policy at the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, points out that among the groups at risk are "some 3 million very low-income seniors and people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as well as more than 200,000 low-income recipients of certain veterans pension and disability benefits, many of whom could face real difficulties filing a return and therefore could miss out on crucial stimulus payments."

Difficult as it may be, people in these categories should file tax returns to ensure they receive stimulus checks.

The IRS clarifies that certain people, including those who receive Social Security, do not need to file taxes in order to get stimulus checks. Specifically, the IRS says it will "use the information on the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 to generate Economic Impact Payments to recipients of benefits reflected in the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 who are not required to file a tax return and did not file a return for 2018 or 2019. This includes senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are not otherwise required to file a tax return."

Yet even if you fit into this description and don't technically need to do anything to get a payment, you may want to file a tax return anyway this year, and soon. As Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center explains, it will take "at least weeks and very likely months" for the IRS to sort through billions of 1099 forms and find Social Security beneficiaries eligible for stimulus checks, and the result will be "slow payments to all low-income seniors who have not filed tax returns." (A statement from the House Committee on Means & Ways indicates that checks to Social Security beneficiaries who have not filed taxes will go out in the second round of payments "hopefully within ten days" of the first payments being sent.)

What's more, Social Security recipients could miss out on the full stimulus check amount they're owed if they have eligible dependents and haven't filed their taxes. For example, a grandmother on Social Security would receive an extra $500 apiece for each child under age 17 she can legally claim as a dependent — but only if she has proven their status as dependents to the IRS, by way of a tax return.

Bottom line: The best strategy for getting your coronavirus stimulus check as quickly as possible, for the full amount you're due, is to make sure you've filed your taxes for either the 2018 or 2019 tax year.

There are many ways to file your taxes for free, and the tax-prep service TurboTax it has partnered with the IRS to create a stimulus registration program where people who don't need to file their taxes can sign up specifically for stimulus check payment. A newly launched IRS portal also allows you to register for a stimulus check (if you haven't filed a tax return) or add your direct deposit information and track your payment status.

Provide Your Direct Deposit Info to the IRS

The second step to make sure you get a coronavirus stimulus check asap is much easier to explain. Basically, what you want to do is provide the IRS with your bank direct deposit information.

You can enter this info when filing your taxes, or by using the IRS web-based portal called Get My Payment that is now live.

People who have filed their taxes and given direct deposit information to the IRS can expect coronavirus stimulus payments to arrive in their bank accounts starting in mid-April.

On the other hand, those receiving stimulus payments in the form of paper checks may have to wait months for the IRS to finally get around to them.

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