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Stimulus check gone missing? Request an IRS trace and track your payment

There are steps you can take to report your no-show stimulus check to the IRS. We'll show you what to do.

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Request an IRS payment trace if you're due for a stimulus check that never arrived. 

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Are you one of those people still waiting for their stimulus check to arrive? (Track your check here.) How do you know when it's time to worry? The IRS is still sending out money until the end of 2021. But if you think you qualify and haven't yet received your third payment of $1,400, you can take action now to track it down -- and that goes for your first or second check as well. 

It might turn out there's an issue with your check, including if the IRS doesn't have your updated mailing address on file. If you received only some money you think you're eligible to receive, you could be owed a "plus-up" payment (you won't need to file an amended tax form).

Keep reading if you want to find out about your stimulus payment through either requesting an IRS payment trace or by filing for a Recovery Rebate Credit, even if you don't usually file taxes. The deadline is May 17. Here's what we know about a possible fourth stimulus payment, how to see if the IRS owes you an extra refund, how to get $50 off your internet bill and how much of the $3,600 per kid you could get with the child tax credit starting in July. This story has been updated. 

When should I worry that my stimulus check didn't come? 

Since the third stimulus checks are still being sent, we'd suggest holding 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 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. 

What if the IRS Get My Payment tool says my third stimulus check was sent, but I never got it?

The IRS continues to send out the third stimulus check to millions of people, so there's a good chance that yours might be on its way, and it's easy check its status 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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What if I got an IRS letter confirming payment but never received the money? 

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 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 request an IRS payment trace to claim a missing stimulus payment?

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 complete my 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 does 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. We've asked the IRS for more information.

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