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Everything to know about stimulus money, tracking your third check and 'plus-up' payments

Many folks have waited months for their stimulus payments. We'll explain how to track your check, "plus-up" adjustments and other stimulus money.

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Money doesn't grow on trees. But extra stimulus money could be coming. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

During the first two weeks of June, the IRS delivered more than $4.2 billion in stimulus payments to individuals across the US. Though the $1,400 hit many bank accounts soon after the American Rescue Plan went into effect in March, the agency has also faced delays as it determines eligibility and adjusts details to process payments. If your third stimulus payment never arrived, read on for how to track its status online and report a problem

In some cases, the IRS may've based a third payment on a person's 2019 tax return but then, after processing his or her 2020 tax return, determined the person was eligible for a larger check. A "plus-up" adjustment is then made for those who received less money than they actually qualified for. This extra money is welcome, as millions of folks continue to struggle financially through the pandemic and as enhanced jobless benefits are cut in 25 US states. 

Though many experts say a fourth stimulus check is unlikely, another round of stimulus aid will be coming to families across the US next month through the expanded child tax credit. We can also help you calculate your upcoming child tax credit payments, tell you ways to know if you qualify and explain the two IRS letters landing in your mailbox. As for other personal finance news, the IRS is issuing unemployment tax refunds to millions. This story gets updated regularly.

Weekly rounds of stimulus checks and plus-up payments 

Since March, the IRS has made 169 million stimulus payments with this third round of checks, for $395 billion. That includes the latest wave of 900,000 checks for a total of $1.9 billion to those who recently filed a tax return, allowing the IRS to determine they were eligible for a payment. The IRS also sent a batch of 1.1 million plus-up payments, for more than $2.5 billion.

What are plus-up stimulus payments? Depending on which year's tax form the IRS used when it did the math on your third payment, the IRS may have calculated the amount of the payment using an older tax form instead of your 2020 filing. If this is your situation, once the IRS receives your 2020 tax return and calculates your third payment again, you could be due more money based on information from your current filing -- or other factors if you don't usually file.

The IRS said it's automatically sending these plus-up payments if it needs to square up the amount it owes you, but to double-check the math, you may want to confirm how much money you should expect this stimulus round and then track your payment.

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Use Get My Payment tool to track your stimulus check online

With the IRS Get My Payment tool, you can get a daily update on your payment status. The online app can also alert you with a message if there's a problem with your payment that you may need to address. Another option is to create an online account with the IRS, if you haven't already. 

If you are sent a plus-up payment after your 2020 tax return is processed, the amount of your third payment will no longer show up on the tool, according to the IRS. In that case you will only see the status of your plus-up payment. 

If you expect your payment to come in the mail, you can use a free tool from the US Postal Service to track your mailed stimulus payment.

What may be holding up your stimulus payment

Here's some information on possible delays with your stimulus check and other problems you might encounter.

Stimulus check delivery start and end dates

First direct deposits made March 17 (official)
First paper checks sent Week of March 15
First EIP cards sent Week of March 22
First Social Security, SSI, SSDI payment sent Weekend of April 3, most arriving April 7
First plus-up payments Weekend of April 3
VA benefits for veteran nonfilers Week of April 14
IRS deadline to finish sending checks Dec. 31, 2021 (mandated by the bill)
Last date to receive a check January 2022 (if mailed checks sent late December)
Final claims for missing stimulus money 2021 tax season likely (in 2022)

If your third stimulus amount is less than you expected

The IRS isn't particularly big on communicating how much money it calculates for your stimulus check. You won't find that figure in the agency's online tracking tool, but you will see it in the confirmation letter you'll receive in the mail. (And here's why you got the payment size you did.) 

So what happens if you use our stimulus check calculator and notice the numbers seem way off, or the IRS letter quotes an amount you didn't receive? Start by triple-checking your qualifications to make sure you're eligible for the total you expect. Remember the IRS is automatically sending plus-up payments after the agency receives your 2020 tax return. If you had a baby or otherwise added a dependent in 2020, you won't need to file an amended tax form to claim the supplement.

The IRS could open up claims for missing stimulus money before its Dec. 31 deadline to stop sending checks. If not, you might have to wait a year to claim it -- when you file your 2021 taxes in 2022 (even if you're a nonfiler who isn't typically required to file taxes).

If you didn't get the full amount for the first two stimulus checks

Plus-up payments are going out weekly along with the third round of checks, but they may not be the only money you're due. For money missing from the first two checks, you need to claim that on your 2020 taxes. We suggest making sure you know where to find your adjusted gross income. You may be eligible to claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit for claiming missing money from the first two checks.

Also, last week, the IRS launched a new online for non-tax filer families called the "Non-filer Sign-up Tool." Its purpose is to help eligible families who don't normally file a tax return enroll in the monthly child tax credit advance payment program, which is slated to begin July 15. However, the tool is also for those who did not file either a 2019 or 2020 tax return and did not use the previous non-filers tool last year to register for stimulus payments. 

In other words, individuals who experience homelessness or make little or no income can use this tool to enter their personal details for the IRS to receive the $1,400 stimulus checks or claim the recovery rebate credit for any amount of the first two rounds of payments that might have been missed. Tax nonfilers may need to be proactive about claiming a new dependent, too.

Notify the IRS of an issue with your stimulus check

The IRS doesn't want you to call if you encounter a problem with the delivery or amount of your stimulus check. So what to do instead? Our guide walks you through how to report stimulus check problems, including checks that never arrived (try filing a payment trace), direct deposit payments that went to the wrong account and other issues.

What to do with the IRS letter on the third stimulus payment

Hold on to that IRS letter that confirms your stimulus payment, including the amount and how the IRS sent your money. That letter from the IRS -- Notice 1444-C -- is your proof that the IRS sent a payment in case you don't actually receive it or if you received less than you qualify for and need to claim the missing amount later. Here's more on what to do with that IRS letter.

What to know about 2020 tax returns and stimulus payments

Taxes were due May 17. So how will the IRS figure out how much it owes you? It will calculate your total (you can also do that here) based on the most recent tax filing it's processed when tabulating the amount of your stimulus check.

If you know your tax return was already processed, the amount of your stimulus check will likely be based on your 2020 adjusted gross income, not on your 2019 AGI. That presents complications if the difference between the two years disqualifies you from getting a third stimulus check

On the flip side, if the IRS uses your 2019 taxes and you're owed more money based on your 2020 AGI and dependents, you could get a plus-up payment. If you got more than you're owed, you'll only need to return it to the IRS in some cases. 

Timeline for stimulus checks this year

Most of the third stimulus check payments have gone out from the IRS and US Department of the Treasury, based on the information the IRS has on hand to determine payment amounts. The March stimulus law, however, gives these federal agencies until Dec. 31, 2021, to send out all the third checks. That gives the IRS room to process 2020 tax returns and square up payments for those who are owed plus-up amounts, folks who filed for a 2020 tax extension and other groups, like people who moved or don't have a fixed address (such as people experiencing homelessness).

Stimulus check payments made to date


Direct deposit Paper checks EIP Card Direct Express Card Plus-up
No. of payments March 17 to May 12 137.3 million ($331 billion) 21.8 million ($48.4 billion) 5 million ($11 billion) 3.1 million 4.1 million ($7.5 billion)
No. of payments May 19 and 26 900,000 ($1.6 billion) 900,000 ($1.9 billion) - - 900,000 ($1.6 million)
No. of payments June 2 and 9 1.2 million ($2.2 billion) 1.1 million ($2 billion) - - 1.1 million ($2.5 billion)

Update on a possible fourth stimulus payment

Millions have been clamoring for recurring stimulus payments, and some lawmakers have expressed support for more relief aid through the pandemic. But President Joe Biden hasn't pledged support to a fourth check, focusing instead on his proposed American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan. 

In a press conference on June 3, White House press secretary Jen Psaki played down the possibility of a fourth stimulus payment, asserting that the administration has already put forward an economic recovery plan. We'll continue to follow the debate in Washington over additional economic impact payments.

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Millions could end up receiving a smaller stimulus check than they're owed.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What SSI, SSDI recipients and veterans should know

Veterans receiving VA benefits and people who get SSDI and SSI benefits are also receiving stimulus checks from the IRS and Treasury. Delivery details should be available in the Get My Payment tool. 

You might get your stimulus money by direct deposit to existing Direct Express cards if this is how you normally receive benefits, and if you didn't file taxes in 2019 or 2020. Otherwise, the money could come in the mail. (Here's what to look for so you know it's legit.) The SSA says that Social Security beneficiaries like SSI and SSDI groups will not receive an EIP debit card

Other exceptions and rules regarding stimulus aid 

Stimulus checks aren't necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation. Here are guides for:

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