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Stimulus checks: IRS plus-up payment deadline, delivery schedule, everything to know

The IRS continues to send $1,400 stimulus checks. In fact, plus-up payments are also on the way if you didn't get your full amount with the third check. Make sure you're up to date on the latest information.

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Tax season is on the horizon, and so are the six monthly child tax credit checks the IRS is ramping up to send to eligible families through the last six months of 2021. Those two facts don't mean it's curtains for sending stimulus checks. In fact, just the opposite. The checks for up to $1,400 per person (calculate your total) will actually continue to arrive by direct deposit and in the mail, either as fresh deliveries or as "plus-up" payments coming to millions of people (here's how to track your stimulus check).

A plus-up payment is catch-up money the IRS owes based on calculating your stimulus share "old" information, rather than on your 2020 tax return. Once the IRS processes your taxes, it'll flag you for a supplemental payment if it turns out you qualify for more based on changes to your AGI or dependents, for example. You could also see a delay, like if the agency doesn't have your new address if you moved, or you don't usually file taxes and need to provide more information.

We'll explain what to know about the checks, including how to report a problem and when you should file a payment trace. For more money matters, find out if your state owes you more money and how Biden's future stimulus bill could bring you more. Here's the latest on student loan debt forgiveness and a fourth stimulus check. This story was recently updated.

Top stimulus plus-up payment details to know

A stimulus check plus-up payment is more money that the IRS and Department of the Treasury owe you for your stimulus check. You may get it for a number of reasons, but the bottom line is that if you're not paying close attention, you may not realize you should expect the supplement. That's why we strongly suggest you know how much money you should expect this stimulus round, track your payment and hold onto the relevant IRS letter. We don't want you leaving money on the table if you're owed a plus-up payment that for whatever reason never arrives.

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This is important, too: Plus-up payments are being delivered on a weekly basis, but only for this third check. A plus-up does not cover any money missing from the first two stimulus checks. We suggest making sure you also know where to find your adjusted gross income. Tax nonfilers may need to be proactive about claiming a new dependent.

If your stimulus payment arrived by 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 (here's how you'll track it in the mail).

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)

Did you get a smaller stimulus check than expected?

The IRS isn't particularly big on communicating how much money it calculates for your stimulus check. You won't find that figure in the agency's online tracking tool, but you will see it in the confirmation letter you'll receive in the mail. (And here's why you got the payment size you did.) 

So what happens if you use our stimulus check calculator and notice the numbers seem way off, or the IRS letter quotes an amount you didn't receive? Start by triple-checking your qualifications to make sure you're eligible for the total you expect. Remember the IRS is automatically sending plus-up payments after the agency receives your 2020 tax return. If you had a baby or added a dependent in 2020, you won't need to file an amended tax form to claim the supplement.

The IRS could open up claims for missing stimulus money before its Dec. 31 deadline to stop sending checks. 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).

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IRS stimulus payment schedule: Forecast from now through December

While the IRS and Treasury say they've sent the bulk of stimulus check payments (at least the initial sums), the text of the March stimulus law gives these agencies until Dec. 31, 2021, to send all the third checks. That buys time to finish processing 2020 taxes, including for people who are owed plus-up payments, folks who file a 2020 tax extension and other groups, like those who moved or don't have a fixed address (such as people experiencing homelessness).

If all or part of your stimulus check doesn't arrive by then, you'll need to claim your missing money via a 2021 tax return in April 2022, a year from now. This would be similar to the Recovery Rebate Credit for claiming missing money from the first two checks, which is currently in effect for 2020 taxes.

Why you might need to keep tracking your stimulus check

Knowing the status of your payment is an important part of making sure you know where your full payment stands. Keep an eye out in the Get My Payment tracker tool for plus-up payments or other information about your payment. The details are updated once a day and the tool can flag if there's a problem with your payment that you may need to address by giving you a message.

You can also use a free tool from the USPS to track your mailed stimulus payment.

Why all or part of your money hasn't arrived

Also, here's what to know if the IRS sent a letter confirming it sent your stimulus payment, but the money never arrived. 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
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)

Got a stimulus check problem? Here's what to do

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.

Your 2020 taxes could make a big difference on your payment

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 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 could get a plus-up payment. If you got more money than you're owed, you'll only need to return it to the IRS in some cases. 

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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 check info for veterans, SSDI and SSI recipients

Veterans receiving VA benefits and people who get SSDI and SSI benefits began receiving stimulus checks from the IRS and Treasury. Delivery details should now be available in the Get My Payment tool

You might get your stimulus money through direct deposit to existing Direct Express cards if this is how you normally receive benefits, and if you didn't file taxes in 2019 or 2020. Otherwise, the money could come in the mail (here's what to look for so you know it's legit). The SSA says that Social Security beneficiaries like SSI and SSDI groups will not receive an EIP debit card

If you're a tax nonfiler and you used the IRS' Non-Filers tool by November 2020 to submit information, you may have already received your check before other Social Security recipients. 

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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

Additional rules and exceptions for these groups

Stimulus checks aren't necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation. Here are 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 law can bring you more money.