Millions of Americans will soon receive stimulus checks, up to $1,200 per adult and $500 for every child under age 17, depending on adjusted gross incomes reported on 2019 federal tax returns, if filed, or on 2018 returns. The government says payments will be issued within three weeks. For many Americans this money will help in a time of severe economic uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Though some experts say this timeline is unrealistic given the size and scope of the $2 trillion economic relief bill, you'll want to make sure you get your stimulus payment as promptly as possible. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be responsible for issuing payments. Here are a few tips to ensure the IRS gets your stimulus money to you without delay when it's available.
1. Make sure the IRS has your correct address.
If you have moved since filing your 2019 or 2018 tax return you need to let the IRS know your new address if the agency does not have your direct deposit details. Otherwise you risk having your stimulus check sent to your former address.
Luckily it's a fairly straightforward process to change your address on record with the IRS. You simply file Form 8822 (Change of Address) with the IRS. You can also call the IRS with the information, although keep in mind, with limited staff on hand, your wait time on the phone may be long. Note that it can take four to six weeks for your change of address to process with the IRS.
2. Make sure the IRS has your correct name.
If you married, remarried, or divorced and changed your name, or legally changed your name for another reason since filing your last tax return, you may experience a delay in receiving your payment. Why? If you filed with a different name on your 2018 tax return, changed your name with the SSA, and haven't yet filed a return for 2019 with your new name, these scenarios could trigger a delay. The IRS typically checks their records against SSA records when issuing payments, and if the names don't match, they don't issue payment until everything matches up.
Your options: if you moved as well as changed your name, Form 8822 (Change of Address) gives you an option to inform them of your name change (line 5a). Second, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and let them know you've changed your name through the SSA; keep in mind, however, that the IRS is short-staffed right now so wait times on the phone are long. Or third, you can file your 2019 federal income tax return with your new name as reflected in the SSA's system and keep your fingers crossed that you beat the federal government's timeline for issuing stimulus payments.
3. Correct your direct deposit information.
Stimulus payments will be issued to taxpayers via direct deposit with the routing and account numbers they provided on their 2019 or 2018 tax returns; these taxpayers will get their stimulus money more quickly than those getting funds by check. If your account has changed, or if you didn't provide direct deposit information on your last filed tax return, the IRS says that the U.S. Treasury is developing a web-based portal in the next couple weeks where you can provide correct banking information. We will update this blog as soon as we have a web address for this site.
4. File your tax returns.
If you haven't filed your 2018 or 2019 tax returns yet, you can still receive your stimulus payment. How? By filing as soon as you can. The IRS urges late filers to visit a tax professional or local community organization for tax assistance to get help with their tax returns. The stimulus payments will be available through 2020.
If you're not required to file a tax return, you can still be entitled to a stimulus payment. The IRS will use information on Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 to generate payments to those who receive government benefits, such as senior citizens and railroad retirees who are otherwise not required to file tax returns.
ETA 4/13/2020: If you were not required to file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 because your gross income was under $12,200 or $24,400 for married couples, or you were not required to file a tax return for other reasons, the IRS now has a online form you to fill out so you can get your stimulus payment. Click here for more details.
In the coming days the IRS will post more information about stimulus payments at IRS.gov/coronavirus. They urge Americans to check with the website instead of calling due to reduced staffing.
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