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No stimulus check yet? Here's what to do

Ben Franklin mask money
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The IRS has distributed all of the $600 stimulus checks from the relief package passed in December — but that doesn't mean all eligible Americans have received their funds. 

If you're still missing what you believe you were owed, you'll have to claim a rebate on your 2020 tax return. 

The legislation approved by Congress at the end of 2020 included a time limit for processing and sending out the latest round of checks and direct deposits. The IRS deposited and mailed more than 147 million payments — all that were "legally permitted" — ahead of its Jan. 15 deadline. Some checks may still be in the mail, but no additional funds will be sent out. 

For those who qualified for but didn't receive a second-round check, the next step is to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on line 30 of your 2020 Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR. You can also claim the credit if you believe you received less than what you were eligible for. 

Tax-filing season in the U.S. began Feb. 12. 

Why you should file your taxes as soon as possible

In addition to letting you claim a missing payment, filing your 2020 tax return sooner rather than later could net you a larger third-round check (if there is one). 

The first two stimulus payments were based on income reported on either your 2019 or 2018 tax return, but the IRS will likely use the most recent return for any additional funds sent out once the next relief bill has been signed. 

That means that if you made less in 2020 than you did in 2019, such as due to job loss or furlough, you could be eligible for more stimulus money based on your 2020 return. 

The current White House plan for a third check includes $1,400 payments for individuals making up to $75,000 ($150,000 for couples filing jointly) with full amounts also going to dependent children and elderly parents. 

There are other proposals from both Republicans and Democrats with varying check totals and income thresholds. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is aiming to get the next relief package signed by Biden before federal unemployment benefits expire on March 14. That leaves just under a month to file 2020 returns if you expect to be eligible for more money. 

Emily Long

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.