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Published: Mar 06, 2024 4 min read
Photo-illustration of a disintegrating clock made of a stimulus check.
Money; Getty Images

The Internal Revenue Service announced this week that “time is running out” for some taxpayers to claim rebates for unpaid stimulus checks.

In 2020 the federal government issued two stimulus checks, otherwise known as Economic Impact Payments. There are still some people who haven't claimed the money because they haven't filed a tax return for that year.

The IRS said in a news release this week that people who are eligible for stimulus checks from this period are now coming up on a May 17 deadline to claim the funds — which are potentially worth thousands of dollars.

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File 2020 tax returns to receive stimulus checks

The first stimulus checks went out in April 2020 in the amount of $1,200 for individuals ($2,400 for couples filing jointly) who qualified for the full amount, followed by $600 payments that were deposited beginning December 2020.

Millions of eligible taxpayers, however, didn’t immediately receive checks. The issue mainly affected lower-income Americans who don’t normally file federal tax returns.

The process for these people to get their stimulus checks requires filing a tax return for 2020 even if they had no income that year.

If you're eligible for a check and haven't already filed those taxes, you should file a 2020 return before May 17 to claim the stimulus money as a rebate that will be paid as a tax refund, the IRS said.

This payment is known as a 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit, and you claim it on Line 30 of your 2020 tax return.

The deadline is coming up because your right to a tax refund expires three years after the tax deadline. Tax day was actually later than usual that filing season — May 17, 2021 — due to an extension for the pandemic. The upcoming deadline is three years from that date.

A third stimulus check was distributed in 2021 for up to $1,400 for individuals. The deadline to claim this money, if you haven’t already, is April 15, 2025 (three years from the deadline for filing 2021 taxes).

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Where’s my stimulus check?

To check if you received stimulus payments in 2020, you can access your IRS online account and navigate to the “tax records” tab. (This is now the main way to track your stimulus check as the agency has retired its Get My Payment tool.)

If you didn’t receive one of the stimulus checks, it could be because you haven’t filed taxes to claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit. To be eligible for the rebate, you must have been a citizen that year, not a dependent of someone else, and have income below a certain threshold.

Where’s my refund?

If you’re owed a stimulus check, the only way to get it is on a tax refund. For 2020 stimulus checks, you will need to file your tax return for that year by May 17.

To check the status of a tax refund, you can usually use the IRS's "Where's My Refund" tool. However, it only works for tax years 2021 and later. You may need to contact the IRS if you need an update on the status of a refund for 2020.

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