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Still no stimulus payment? Here's how to request an IRS trace to track your check

It could be time to report that missing stimulus check to the IRS. We'll tell you how.

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An IRS payment trace can help you find out where your latest stimulus payment is hiding. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is now the time to worry that your stimulus check has gone missing or got lost? Though the IRS is still disbursing payments and will be doing so until December, if you know you qualify for a third stimulus check and haven't received your $1,400 payment (or the first or second payments in 2020), you might feel better trying to track it down

There could in fact be an issue with your check, or the IRS could have the incorrect mailing address. Another reason to track down your payment is if you received only some of the money you're eligible for since you're owed a "plus-up" payment (in which case, you do not need to file an amended tax form).

We'll give you the information you need to request an IRS payment trace or file for a recovery rebate credit, even if you don't normally file taxes (the tax deadline is May 17). If you filed your 2020 tax return and you're waiting for your refund money, here's how to track it down. If you received unemployment benefits in 2020, you could be due for a big tax break. Also, here's what we know about a possible fourth stimulus payment, how to see if the IRS owes you an extra refund and how much of the $3,600 per kid you could get with the child tax credit starting in July. This story gets regular updates. 

When should I request an IRS payment trace?

Since the third stimulus checks are still being sent, you could hold out a little longer before taking action. If you didn't get your first or second check at all, though, it's time to do something. This chart shows when you can and should request an IRS payment trace, which is designed to hunt down a stimulus check the agency says it sent. More below on exactly how a payment trace works, how to get started and when to use it.

When to request an IRS payment trace

Method of payment Time passed since IRS says it sent your payment
Direct deposit 5 days
Check mailed to standard address 4 weeks
Check mailed to a forwarded address 6 weeks
Check mailed to a foreign address 9 weeks

This timeline was the same for the first and second payments of 2020 as well. If your first or second stimulus check is missing, you can no longer use the Get My Payment tool to track it down. 

How can I check the status of my no-show stimulus check? 

It's easy check its status of your third stimulus check through the Get My Payment tool. You'll need to request a payment trace if the IRS portal shows your payment was issued but you haven't received it within the time frame outlined in the chart above.

To use the tool, you need to plug in your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, date of birth, street address and ZIP or postal code. The portal will show your payment status, if your money has been scheduled and the payment method (direct deposit or by mail) and date. You might also see a different message or an error. (Here's how to track your mailed check through the US Postal Service.)

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I got a letter from the IRS confirming my third stimulus payment but haven't received the money. What now? 

About 15 days after the IRS sends your third stimulus check (by either direct depositpaper check or EIP card), you should get a letter from the agency confirming your payment. The IRS is still sending these letters for the third payment.

If you received this letter -- also called Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment -- but you never got your payment, you'll need to request a payment trace. Make sure you keep the letter because you'll need the information to file your claim. (Here's what to do if you lost the IRS letter.) The same is true for the first and second stimulus checks as well. 

How can I ask for an IRS trace of my missing stimulus money?

To request a payment trace, call the IRS at 800-919-9835 or mail or fax a completed Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund (PDF). Note: If you call the number, you'll have to listen through the recorded content before you can connect with an agent.

To complete Form 3911 for your third stimulus check, the IRS provides the following instructions: 

1. Write "EIP3" on the top of the form (EIP stands for Economic Impact Payment.)

2. Complete the form answering all refund questions as they relate to your payment.

3. When completing item 7 under Section 1:

  • Check the box for "Individual" as the Type of return.
  • Enter "2021" as the Tax Period.
  • Do not write anything for the Date Filed.
  • Sign the form. If you're married and filing together, both spouses must sign the form.

You should not mail Form 3911 if you've already requested a trace by phone. And the IRS said you should not request a payment trace to determine if you were eligible to get a check or to confirm the amount you should have received

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What does the IRS do with missing-check claims?

The IRS will do the following to process your claim, according to its website: 

  • If you didn't cash the check, the IRS will issue a replacement. If you discover the original check among your belongings, you're expected to return it as soon as possible.
  • If you did cash or deposit the check, expect a claim package from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which will include a copy of the cashed check. Follow the included instructions. The bureau will review your claim and the signature on the canceled check before deciding whether it will issue a replacement. This is presumably to guard against stimulus check fraud.

How long will it take for my stimulus check to arrive after requesting a payment trace?

You should get a response from the IRS about six weeks after the agency receives your request for a payment trace, according to its website. But this could be delayed due to limited staffing. 

For more, read about a potential fourth stimulus check and what else is in the stimulus package that may help you financially.