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Missing your stimulus check? Here's what you need to do

Stimulus check
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The IRS has already sent out millions of stimulus checks based on the third stimulus bill, though there are plenty more still to come. So if you haven’t received your $1,400 payment yet, you don’t need to worry.

But if you suspect that your third stimulus payment should have arrived but hasn’t, there are some things you can do to make sure your payment does arrive. The same is true if you’re still missing some or all of your first or second stimulus payments.

Stimulus check: Check your status with the IRS Get My Payment app

If you’re not sure whether your stimulus check has been sent out, the easiest way to check is by using the IRS’s own online tracker. Alternatively, you can use the IRS stimulus check phone number.

If you meet the eligibility requirements for the third stimulus check, the status of your payment should be visible from the IRS’S Get My Payment Portal. That includes people who are not eligible for the full stimulus-check amount. Here’s how:

  • Just head over to the IRS Get My Payment website, and click “Get My Payment” to enter the portal.
  • Click “OK” on the authorized-use page after you’ve read through the terms
  • Fill out your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Tax ID (ITIN) along with your date of birth, address, and ZIP code. Then click Continue.

You should then see your stimulus-check-payment status. If it hasn’t been sent yet, you have nothing to worry about. 

If it says “Payment Status Not Available” it means that you’re either not eligible, or that the IRS hasn’t finished processing your tax return yet, assuming you have already filed it.

If you signed up to USPS’s informed delivery tool, you can track your stimulus check through the mail and will get a notification when it arrives in your mailbox. You can read more about that here. But if you don’t receive your payment, that’s when you want to escalate things. 

Stimulus check: How to check if your payment is late

The first thing to check is how you’re supposed to be getting your stimulus check, and how long it’s been since the IRS has sent the payment. That information is available in the Get My Payment app.

Direct deposit is the fastest method and should arrive in our account within five days after the IRS authorizes the payment. A check sent through the mail to a standard address will take up to four weeks, six weeks to a forwarded address, and nine weeks to a foreign address.

You should also receive a letter from the IRS around 15 days after it sent your third stimulus check, regardless of how the payment was sent. This is called "Notice 1444, your Economic Impact Payment." Keep hold of this as it’s needed for claiming a missing payment.

If your payment still hasn’t arrived after receiving the letter, or after the allocated arrival period has passed, you’re going to want to file a Payment Trace with the IRS.

Stimulus check: How to request a payment trace

There are two options to claim a payment trace. The first is to call 800-919-9835 and listen to all the recorded messages to be connected with an IRS agent. You can also download the Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund from the IRS website and either mail or fax the completed form to the agency.

Just be sure to follow these instructions, as laid out by the IRS:

  • Write EPI3 at the top of the form, making it clear that the form is for the third Economic Impact Payment, the official name for the stimulus payments
  • When you reach section 7, check the box for Individual as the Type of Return
  • Enter 2021 as the Tax Period
  • Leave Date Filed box blank
  • Make sure to sign the form, but be aware that married couples filing jointly will both need to sign

You don’t need to mail Form 3911 if you did your payment trace over the phone.

What happens next?

It can take up to six weeks before you will get a response from the IRS about your payment trace. If your original check wasn’t cashed, the IRS will issue a replacement. If you find or receive the original check, return it to the IRS as soon as you can.

If the check has been cashed, you will receive a claim package from the Bureau of Fiscal Services which includes a copy of the cashed check. Follow the instructions, and your claim will be reviewed before the Bureau makes a decision on issuing a replacement.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.