Stimulus check status: Here's why you should file your taxes ASAP

Illustration of hundred-dollar bills and a check from the U.S. Treasury poking out of a manila envelope against the backdrop of the American flag.
(Image credit: ungvar/Shutterstock)

The IRS has pushed back the tax filing deadline from April 15 to May 17 (opens in new tab) for many Americans, but if you haven’t yet received your third stimulus check, you should file your return sooner rather than later. 

The reason? The faster you file, the sooner your direct payment (and your refund, if you’re getting one) will be processed. As The Washington Post describes (opens in new tab), your tax return is how the IRS knows whether you’re owed money and how much you're owed — as well as where to deposit your money. 

Filing your taxes is also the only way to claim an outstanding stimulus check, or a make-up payment if you received less than you were eligible for in previous rounds of relief. 

It takes the IRS an average of 21 days to issue refunds and payments, so putting off filing your return will set you back at least several weeks, and possibly a month or more. Industry data suggests (opens in new tab) that in 2020, Americans received billions of dollars in refunds later than necessary due to delayed filing. 

Is May 17 the deadline for everyone?

The IRS extended the filing and payment deadline for most individual taxpayers submitting their 2020 tax returns. 

However, the change does not apply to estimated payments of self-employment taxes owed by gig workers and small-business owners. The first quarterly payment for 2021 is still due on April 15. 

On the flipside, some Americans actually have an even later filing deadline. Those in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas — states hit hard by winter storms earlier this year — have until June 15 to file individual and business returns and to make payments. 

Finally, keep in mind that not all states have the same deadline for filing and paying taxes as the federal government. Check your state’s current rules (opens in new tab) to ensure you don’t miss any important dates. 

Track your stimulus payment

If you’re still waiting on stimulus check 3, you can enter your information into the IRS Get My Payment tool (opens in new tab). You’ll need your Social Security number or Individual Tax ID (ITIN) as well as your birth date, street address and ZIP code. The tracker will tell you when to expect your payment. 

If you’re not sure how much you’ll receive, use the stimulus-check calculator to determine what you qualify for. 

Emily Long is a Utah-based freelance writer who covers consumer technology, privacy and personal finance for Tom's Guide. She has been reporting and writing for nearly 10 years, and her work has appeared in Wirecutter, Lifehacker, NBC BETTER and CN Traveler, among others. When she's not working, you can find her trail running, teaching and practicing yoga, or studying for grad school — all fueled by coffee, obviously.