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Still waiting on your stimulus check? How to request an IRS trace to track your payment

If you're missing any of the three stimulus checks, we'll tell you what you need to do to get in touch with the IRS to have the agency track down your money.

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If you believe your stimulus check has gone AWOL, you may want to request a payment trace from the IRS.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Still haven't received your stimulus check? The IRS has sent out 163 million so far and will continue to send payments to those who qualify until the end of the year. However, if you think something is wrong and your $1,400 payment is lost, it may be time to take action and track down your missing money -- and that's for any of the first, second and third rounds of stimulus payments

For any of the stimulus checks, if you were eligible and they never arrived, there may be a problem with the payment -- especially if the IRS doesn't have your correct information on file (like an address if you moved). You may also be owed a "plus-up" payment if you received some but not all of your $1,400 payment -- you should automatically receive it without having to amend your tax form. (You might also be able to take advantage of a number of other savings opportunities thanks to the latest stimulus law.)

We'll tell you how to track your payment, either through a Recovery Rebate Credit (even if you don't usually file taxes) or an IRS payment trace. Plus, here's what we're hearing about a potential fourth stimulus check, what may happen with student loan forgiveness, how to get a $50 discount on your internet bill and the latest on the child tax credit. (Calculate your total here.) This story has been updated.

When you should be concerned about a missing stimulus check

Third stimulus checks are still being sent, so we'd suggest holding out a little longer. If you didn't get your first or second check at all, though, it's time to act. In general, 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 checks 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. Here's how to find the amount of your first two stimulus checks.

If the IRS tracker app says your stimulus check was sent but you never got it, what options do you have?

The IRS continues to send out the third stimulus check to millions of people, so there's a good chance that if you haven't gotten yours yet, it's in the works. You can check the status of your third check. 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 to send 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.)

You'll need to request a payment trace if the Get My Payment portal shows your payment was issued but you haven't received it within the time frame outlined in the chart above.

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You got a letter from the IRS saying your stimulus payment arrived, but you never got it. What should you do?

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 now 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: You'll need the information to file your claim. (Here's what to do if you lost the IRS letter about your stimulus check.) The same is true for the first and second stimulus checks as well. 

How to request an IRS payment trace to claim any of your missing stimulus payments

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 to process your payment trace?

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 the refund 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 your stimulus check to arrive after filing a payment trace claim?

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. We've asked the IRS for more information.

For more on stimulus checks, here's what we know about a potential fourth stimulus check and what else is in the stimulus package that may help you financially.