How to use the IRS Website to Get your Stimulus Check
Beware of entering the IRS website to get your stimulus check. It is something you may have heard of in a haunted house at a Halloween Carnival. However, when it comes to COVID 19 Stimulus payments you should we wary before using the IRS website and portals to get your check.
CARES Act and Stimulus Check
In March 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). A large part of that act involved stimulus payments that would be directly deposited into the bank accounts of millions of Americans. (To learn more about the stimulus payments and limitations on the stimulus CLICK HERE. Americans that filed their 2018 or 2019 tax returns before March 30, 2020 and provided bank account information on those returns should have received their stimulus payments in their bank accounts. Americans receiving social security, veterans’ benefits and railroad retirement benefits should have also received their stimulus payments in their bank accounts.
Of course, things are not always simple and do not always go as planned. Some Americans did not file their tax returns. Others may have filed their returns, but they did not provide bank account information on their returns. Moreover, some, for one reason or another, may have fallen through the cracks and are unable to get their stimulus payments.
The IRS offers up website portals that taxpayers can use to facilitate their COVID 19 stimulus payments. People can check on the status of their stimulus payment using the IRS Get My Payment Tool. The IRS offers one portal for non-filers- people who do not have a legal obligation to file tax returns. Such people include individuals with gross incomes less than $12,200 in 2019 or Married couples with income less than $24,400. However, this portal will close to people who earn SSI and VA benefits on May 5th, 2020. Everyone else should use the Get My Payment Tool. If you are unsure which category, you fall into, you should consult this guide.
Thousands, maybe millions, of people are finding themselves experiencing delays in receiving their COVID 19 stimulus payments for one reason or another. They are unable to contact the IRS because the IRS is closed. These understandably frustrated people will want to do something and may be tempted to use one of the IRS portals to hasten their stimulus check; however, they need to proceed with caution if using the IRS tools.
For starters, the IRS warns that using their website and portals inappropriately could cause delays in processing payments. Those who should not use the tools include: people who provide direct deposit information on their 2018 or 2019 tax returns, people who provided bank account information on their 2018 or 2019 returns that is not current or not accurate, and people who are required to file a 2018 or 2019 return but did not do so.
Problem resulting from incorrect use of the IRS tool
Another potential problem resulting from incorrect use of the IRS tool is that it may expose taxpayers to potential penalties. Nina Olson, the former head of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, recently wrote on the Procedurally Taxing blog that the portal is arguably the legal equivalent of a tax return. A taxpayer that incorrectly uses one of these portals can inadvertently bring negative tax consequences upon themselves.
Let us take a hypothetical married couple with no children that earns $100,000 a year as an example. This couple should be entitled to a $2,400 COVID 19 stimulus payment, but for one reason or another, the couple did not get their stimulus payment. Out of frustration, one spouse decides to use the non-filer portal to expedite the stimulus payment. If Nina Olson’s argument is true, this couple just filed a tax return claiming they made less than $24,400 per year by using the portal. This means they under-reported their income on a tax return by over $75,000 and under-reported their tax owed by more than $8,000. The couple could face penalties of up to 75% of the $8,000 tax misstated.
The stimulus payments provided by the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act has helped millions of Americans during these troubling times. Unfortunately, the stimulus payment program has not run smoothly for everybody. Many Americans find themselves without the stimulus checks they are entitled to and are frustrated that they have no access to assistance. If you have not received your stimulus check, we suggest taking the following steps.
- Check the status of your stimulus payment on the IRS’ Get My Payment Tool. If your name is not found, try re-entering your information using all capital letters. Your payment may be on its way to you.
- Electronically file your 2019 return. The IRS extended the deadline for the 2019 return until July 15th this year, but electronically filing your return may be the best way to speed up your stimulus payment. If you are due a refund, provide your bank account information so you can have your tax refund and stimulus check directly deposited to your bank account as the IRS has reported delays in mailing out stimulus payments. In addition, mailing your tax return is not advised as the backup of mailed returns may take weeks (or maybe longer) to for IRS personnel to process due to the shutdowns.
- Use the appropriate portal. Most people should use the Get My Payment Tool to input bank information. Only people with no tax return filing requirements should use the Non-Filer portal.
Unfortunately, not much more can be done to speed up the receipt of your stimulus check. The IRS is continuously changing and updating its procedures, so be on the lookout updates. We do hope that everyone eligible will get their COVID 19 stimulus checks as soon as possible.
Published by Joe Cole