17/06/2021

Stimulus checks: IRS plus-up payments, delivery deadline, everything you need to know

If already you’ve got your third stimulus check, should you look for a plus-up payment too?


Sarah Tew/CNET

For families and individuals who qualify for the third stimulus check, the IRS has already made 161 million payments for $379 billion total, one $1,400 check at a time. But many are still waiting for an update on their payments, after Congress passed the American Rescue Plan in March, whether it’s the third check or a “plus-up” payment the IRS is sending to those who qualify for more money.

The IRS is keeping to a weekly payment schedule for both new checks and for the plus-up stimulus money. And with tax season overlapping with the stimulus check timeline, the IRS is busy sending hundreds of thousands of checks to Social Security recipients and SSI beneficiaries through direct deposit and in the mail, and to eligible people who recently supplied tax information the IRS needed to calculate their stimulus check. (Here’s how to check your stimulus status with the IRS.)

We’ll lay out what to know about the IRS timeline for payments, including how to report a stimulus check problem and when it’s time to file a payment trace. If you have kids, keep an eye out for child tax credit payments for up to $3,600 to start revving up, and find if your state owes you more money. Here’s how a future stimulus plan could bring you more. Also, see how you could get up to $50,000 back with one-time benefits this year. Here’s the latest on student loan debt forgiveness and a fourth check. This story is frequently updated.

Plus-up stimulus payments are going out from the IRS weekly, for months more

The IRS is on a weekly payment schedule for the third round of payments. But you may be due another check if the IRS underestimated your amount. If the IRS calculated your third payment using an older tax return it had on hand from you at the time, you may qualify for a plus-up payment. Last week, the IRS sent 700,000 of these plus-up payments for nearly $1.2 billion to people who had already received their third stimulus check. If your 2020 tax return shows you qualify for a larger payment, the IRS said it will recalculate the amount of your payment and automatically send a plus-up payment for the difference it owes you, after it receives your 2020 tax return — or based on other factors if you don’t usually file.

The IRS said it will automatically make these catch-up payments to square up what it owes you, but it’s a good idea to double-check your amount to confirm how much money you should expect this stimulus round, then track your payment and hold onto the relevant IRS letter in case you received less than you believe you are eligible for. 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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Stimulus plus-up payments: What you need to know



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These plus-up payments are now going out weekly along with the third round of checks, but they may not be the only money you’re due. For money missing from the first two checks, you need to claim that on your 2020 taxes. (Tax Day is May 17.) 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, too.

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).

IRS stimulus payment timeline through December 2021

The majority of the third stimulus check payments have gone out from the IRS and US Treasury, at least based on what the IRS has on hand to determine payment amounts. The March stimulus law, however, gives these federal agencies to Dec. 31, 2021, to send all the third checks. That gives the IRS room to process 2020 tax returns and square up payments for those who are owed plus-up amounts, 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 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.

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)
Sixth payment batch — April 21 900,000 ($1.5 billion) 1.1 million ($1.8 billion) Not disclosed Not disclosed 700,000 ($1.2 billion)

Should you track your IRS 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.


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Did you receive a smaller amount in your check than you 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 and that happens 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).

Is there a problem with your stimulus payment? Start here to check its status

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.

Why all or some of your stimulus money didn’t arrive

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)

Your 2020 tax return really could make a big difference in your payment total

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 details for Social Security SSI and SSDI recipients and for veterans

Veterans receiving VA benefits and people who get SSDI and SSI benefits are now 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 by 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 had a new baby in 2020 or 2021, you could get additional stimulus money, once the IRS calculates your dependent.


Sarah Tew/CNET

There’s more: Extra rules and exceptions to know

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.