Ronald Reagan once famously quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ ” For the millions of Americans who have already received their Economic Impact Payments, (commonly called “stimulus payments”) these words may not have aged well. For the others, who are still waiting, have accidentally thrown obscure looking payments away, or received an incorrect amount, these words may still have a ring of truth to them. The sudden economic disruption caused by Covid-19 and the government’s subsequent haste to send out stimulus money has created confusion surrounding payment methods and incorrect payment amounts. In particular, debit card payments were confusing as they can be easily mistaken for credit card junk mail.
If you are still waiting for your payment, have thrown it away, or received an incorrect amount, there are options to help remedy the situation. The IRS has provided a “Get My Payment” tool that allows you to track the status of your payment (https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment). If you have not received payment but the IRS payment tool indicates that you should have received one, or you have received Notice 1444 from the IRS telling you that your payment was sent, they recommend calling a toll free number (800-919-9835) to report the lost payment. Unfortunately, speaking to an actual representative is difficult, wait times are long, and the recorded help feature is often confusing. This is understandably frustrating for all, especially if you need the payment immediately.
Fortunately, there are a couple of alternatives outlined on the IRS Economic Impact Payment Information Center, available at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center. One of these options involves the completion of Form 3911, which is typically used for refund payments. This form allows you to request a lost, stolen, or destroyed “stimulus” payment. Special instructions for completing this form for an Economic Impact Payment exist, so consult with your tax preparer if opting to go this route.
The IRS has also indicated that reconciliation may be made with your 2020 tax return. While no specific details are given yet, the IRS Economic Impact Payment Information Center states that “The IRS will provide information on what actions you need to take when you file your 2020 tax return when they are available.” This would also seemingly account for incorrect payments in situations like the birth of a dependent child in 2020 that was consequently not included on a 2019 tax return.
The federal economic stimulus introduced through the CARES act has provided relief to millions of Americans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the physical delivery of this money has failed at times, eligible recipients can recover their stimulus payment. If your payment has been lost, missing, or incorrect, the options outlined above will assist in correcting your specific situation.