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Stimulus checks: Delivery update, rebate, income limit, eligibilty, third check timing

When did the IRS stop sending $600 stimulus checks? How do you claim your missing money now? What is Biden's proposal for a third stimulus check? We answer these questions and more.

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The second stimulus check is over... or is it? We'll help you make sense of it all.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Joe Biden is days away from his Jan. 20 inauguration and hopes to hit the ground running with an ambitious agenda that includes a plan for 100 million COVID-19 vaccine injections in his first 100 days in office and a $1.9 trillion economic-recovery package that would send a third stimulus check for $1,400 per qualified adult.

But millions of Americans who are still waiting for the second stimulus check are focused on the relief payment for $600 that the IRS and US Treasury stopped sending automatically out through direct depositmailed checks and EIP cards on Friday. If that's you, we can help you navigate this second phase of delivery and how to report your missing check.

We can also answer what you can do if your check is affected by a delay, why you should check the status of your stimulus money, what your payment rights are and how to set up an IRS trace if your stimulus money is lost in transit. We even can tell you what happens if you received too much money from the IRS and explain the link between stimulus checks and tax season. Here are all the details. This story updates often.

The $600 stimulus check has kicked over to its second phase

Second stimulus check payments had a Jan. 15 cutoff as part of December's bill authorizing the money. As a result, there are now two phases for stimulus checks going out -- those that arrived before the deadline and those that have to be reconciled from here on out. Whether you got your check or not, it might be helpful for you to calculate your '$600' second stimulus check total, and to understand exactly how the IRS decides on stimulus check amounts per household.

Yes, you can still get your $600 second stimulus payment

You haven't missed your opportunity to get your second stimulus payment, though you are more likely to get it bundled with your tax return now. If you don't get your second check within a few days after Jan. 15 (it could take some time in the mail,) eligible individuals will have to claim it when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. Feb. 12 is the first day you can file. The later you file taxes, the longer it may take to get your second stimulus check. If you got a notice saying the money was sent but you never got it, you may need to set up a trace with the IRS.

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Why you should track your stimulus money two ways

If you're missing your first check and waiting for your second, there are two things you can do to get some visibility into what's going on. The first is to use the IRS' free online Get My Payment tool. The online application can show you if there's an issue that's delaying your second stimulus payment delivery. Make sure you read our tips on how to use it, since the tool isn't completely straightforward. 

The second method, which is specifically for people who are getting physical checks and EIP cards, is to sign up for a free USPS service that scans your mail and lets you know when it's coming. That takes the guesswork out of the whole operation. 

Stimulus checks and taxes: Important things to know

Tax season 2020 is about to begin, with your taxes due on April 15. But stimulus checks complicate the situation, especially if you're missing all or part of your money from either check. Here's everything you need to know and expect when it comes to stimulus checks and this year's taxes.

Third stimulus check: $1,400, $2,000 or another amount?

On Jan. 14, Biden outlined a stimulus package proposal and backed a third stimulus check for up to $1,400 per adult. This is clearly less than the $2,000 last-ditch effort in late December and the package that was discussed earlier this month. 

Biden's proposal isn't a given, and the $1,400 he's suggesting now could be wildly different from the final dollar amount that gets approved. We just don't know. That figure, and any changes to stimulus check qualifications, will be points of negotiation and debate in the new Congress. Remember that President Donald Trump also called for $2,000 checks, but negotiators settled at a $600 maximum, so we'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, here are all the ways you could get more money with a third stimulus check.

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The delivery of second stimulus checks has now entered Phase 2.

Angela Lang/CNET

If I have a problem with my stimulus payment, can I call the IRS?

When the IRS facilitated sending the first stimulus checks, it sent a letter with phone numbers to call if you ran into trouble. The agency also staffed up call center representatives. That's not the case this time around. Instead, the IRS wants you to claim your missing money using the Rebate Recovery Credit as part of your 2020 taxes and use online tools. The agency tells you not to call. Here's how to contact the IRS about a missing stimulus check.

Rules for dependents may again change with the third check

The second stimulus check gave households a $100 raise on the amount given for child dependents, a flat rate of $600. Compared to the first direct payment, this is an increase from $500 per child dependent who are 16 years or younger. There's no cap on the number of children, aged 17 and under, who contribute to the household's total.

A third check could potentially change stimulus eligibility again by expanding the definition to dependents of all ages, according to Biden's stimulus plan. (Here's who the IRS considers an adult for stimulus checks.)

If you don't file taxes, know these important things

While taxes and stimulus checks are tied together, you don't need to have filed a tax return to qualify for a check. If you're over age 65, for example, and receive Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance, you could still qualify for a stimulus check under the CARES Act. However, if you didn't get your stimulus money and didn't use the non-filers tool by Nov. 21, you'll now need to file some tax forms during tax season to get your money.

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You still have a few weeks to claim a stimulus check this year.

Angela Lang/CNET

You have stimulus checks rights

For example, did you know that the IRS doesn't consider stimulus money to be income, and therefore won't tax your stimulus checks in 2020 or 2021? What about repayments if you qualify for a lower amount this time around? What if you didn't get your full payment -- do you have a right to claim it?

In addition, some rules have changed in the second check when it comes to who can garnish your stimulus money. Here are all your stimulus check rights.

Some groups of people may have slightly different qualifications and rules

When it comes to stimulus checks, small details and exceptions can be confusing. While some situations are easy to understand, others concerning you and your dependents might make it unclear if you're eligible, how much money you might receive and if there's anything extra you have to do to claim your money.

For example: