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IRS is sending stimulus checks and plus-up payments: Everything you need to know

What the heck is a "plus-up payment" and what's the story with stimulus check delivery anyway? How do you know if you got all your money or if you're owed more, and how do you report problems? All your stimulus payment information is here.

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If you already got your stimulus check, will you get a plus-up payment, too?

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Is the IRS done sending stimulus checks? Nope. The IRS and Department of the Treasury sent out their fifth payment batch this week and intends to keep the money coming: "The IRS will continue to make Economic Impact Payments on a weekly basis. Ongoing payments will be sent to eligible individuals for whom the IRS previously did not have information to issue a payment but who recently filed a tax return, as well to people who qualify for 'plus-up' payments," the agencies said this week. In addition, checks are still arriving in the mail.

We'll share all you need to know about those plus-up payments, and also:

You might also want to know about qualifying for a monthly child tax credit (see our child credit payment FAQ, including eligibility for 2021 babies), and getting money off your health insurance. In addition, your state may owe you money. And here's the latest on student loan debt forgiveness, and a fourth stimulus check. This story was recently updated.

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Stimulus check plus-up payment basics

The IRS and Treasury Department plan to continue sending plus-up payments on a weekly basis. People who receive this type of stimulus money didn't get everything they were owed with their initial $1,400 check -- it does not cover any money missing from the first two stimulus checks.

For example, if the IRS used your 2019 taxes to calculate your third stimulus check and then finds it underpaid you after processing your 2020 taxes -- maybe you had a lower AGI this time or count a new dependent -- you're due an automatic pay bump to correct the error.

If you got your stimulus payment through direct deposit, that's how you should expect to receive your plus-up money, too. If the IRS doesn't have your details on file, you may get a paper check instead.

Plus-up payments will continue on a weekly basis as the IRS processes 2020 tax forms and reevaluates checks. The batch going out this week includes 700,000 plus-up payments totaling more than $1.2 billion.

Timeline reality check: Your stimulus money could still arrive through December

Although the IRS and Treasury are sending stimulus checks now, the agencies have until Dec. 31 to complete distributing the third payments. That's good news in the sense they aren't facing a compressed deadline to send out all the checks, as they did for the second stimulus check in December, which only gave them a 17-day window to get the payments out. 

On the other hand, the nearly nine-month delivery window also means some people may find themselves waiting for their payment, for a variety of reasons. We'll have to wait and see how the IRS deals with any fringe issues that arise, such as the need to claim missing money. 

Stimulus check payments made to date


Direct deposit Paper checks EIP Card Direct Express Card Plus-up
First payment batch -- March 17 90 million ($242 billion) 150,000 ($442 million) Not disclosed Not disclosed Not disclosed
Second payment batch -- March 24 17 million ($38 billion) 15 million ($34 billion) 5 million ($11 billion) Not disclosed Not disclosed
Third payment batch, including Social Security -- April 3 2 million ($5 billion) 2 million ($5 billion) Not disclosed Not disclosed
Not disclosed
Fourth payment batch, including first plus-up payment -- April 7 24 million ($33 billion) 1 million ($3 billion) Not disclosed 3.1 million 1 million ($2 million)
Fifth payment batch, including nonfiler veterans -- April 14 1.2 million ($2 billion) 800,000 ($1.4 billion) Not disclosed Not disclosed 700,000 ($1.2 billion)

What to do if money is still missing from your stimulus check

There are several reasons the IRS may owe you stimulus money after it sends out the third round of checks.

For example, the agency may have processed your 2019 tax return before it received 2020 tax forms and you're entitled to a bigger payment. If this is your situation, the IRS said it will automatically evaluate if you qualify for more money after it receives your 2020 tax return. It will then send you a supplemental payment for the difference between what you originally received and the amount you now qualify for. You don't need to take any action to receive this supplemental payment, according to the IRS.

If you had a baby or added a dependent in 2020, the IRS said it will also automatically send you a supplement payment once it receives your taxes this year.

But what if a clerical error accidentally left out a new dependent? Or perhaps your payment never arrived or was accidentally garnished? The IRS may provide a way to file for missing stimulus money before the Dec. 31 deadline. 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).

Why you want to track your stimulus money

If you got your stimulus check money, are you sure you got the right amount? The IRS won't tell you, and if you want to see for yourself, you may need to jump through a hoop or two. Start by knowing how much money you should receive (at least the ballpark figure) and make sure you know the status of your payment. 

The IRS updates its Get My Payment tracker tool for stimulus checks daily. This online app shows the status of your payment, including when a check is scheduled for delivery. You can also use a free tool from the USPS to track your mailed stimulus payment.

The IRS portal also flags if there's a problem with your payment that you may need to address, but it doesn't tell you the amount you'll receive. You'll see your payment status in the tracker if you receive SSI and SSDI benefits. VA beneficiaries who are veterans and don't file taxes can check the status of their payments beginning the weekend of April 10 and 11. 

Why some or all of your stimulus payment has been held back

Here's more information on problems you might encounter with your stimulus check.

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
Last day to get direct deposit March 24, unless you receive a "plus-up" adjustment for 2020 taxes
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)

How to report a problem with your stimulus check

The IRS doesn't want you to call if you have any issue 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 arrive (try filing a payment trace), direct deposit payments that go to the wrong account and other issues.

Why your 2020 tax return is so important this time

Taxes are now 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 at the time it's ready to tabulate the amount of your stimulus check.

If you filed your 2020 taxes early and you know your tax return was already processed, your total 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'll need to claim the difference at a later date. Note that if you filed your 2020 taxes after you got your stimulus payment, this IRS is now sending the catch-up payments now. (Learn more about some of the stimulus check exceptions and catches here.)

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Millions may wind up getting a smaller check than they're owed, depending on their 2020 taxes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Stimulus money for SSI and SSDI recipients, veterans

After a month of waiting, stimulus checks started flowing to veterans receiving VA benefits. On April 14, the IRS and Treasury said they sent 320,000 payments to veterans who don't ordinarily file taxes (those that do may have received their stimulus check already). Some veterans on a forum on Reddit are reporting they received their checks. VA beneficiary payment information should have been in the IRS' Get My Payment tool this weekend, the IRS said, but some are reporting their status still isn't available. We reached out to the IRS for clarification.

Starting April 3, the IRS started making payments for SSDI and SSI recipients and retired railroad workers, many of whom automatically qualify for the third check. The majority of payments made electronically -- either through direct deposit or to existing Direct Express cards (PDF) -- by April 7, according to the IRS.

You'll most likely get the electronic payment transfer if this is how you normally receive benefits, and if you didn't file taxes in 2019 or 2020. But some in this subset of nonfilers could receive an automatic payment sooner if they got a previous check by using the IRS' Non-Filers tool, which is now closed. The SSA says this group will not receive an EIP debit card. Here's our complete guide to stimulus checks for people receiving Social Security benefits.

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If you don't get all your stimulus check money right away, you may need to address the issue down the road.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Find more stimulus check guidance for these groups

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

And here's everything you need to know about the third stimulus check, how to calculate your stimulus total and every way the stimulus bill can bring you more money.