On Friday, the Treasury Department and the IRS reported that 88.1 million payments worth nearly $158 billion had been issued in the program’s first three weeks. That’s no small feat. Yet it’s little consolation for the tens of millions worried about when they’ll get their money.
Because agencies keep separate systems, it took some effort to figure out how to automatically send payments to people receiving certain federal benefits, such as Social Security.
Payments are automatic for people who receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). People who receive Railroad Retirement benefits and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who didn’t file a tax return in the last two years will also get automatic payments.
The IRS launched two portals to collect information from individuals who have not filed a tax return in the last two years and for others who have filed but did not give the IRS direct deposit information.
People eligible for the stimulus payment who are not required to file a tax return and don’t plan to file for 2019 should use the “non-filer” tool on the IRS website. Non-filers can also provide direct deposit information, which will send an electronic payment to a bank account rather than having to wait for a mailed check.
If you usually file a tax return and just want to give the IRS direct deposit information, you have to use the Get My Payment tool. It also allows you to check the status of your payment; however, a number of glitches have plagued the portal.
Thousands of people have contacted The Washington Post wondering why they have not received a stimulus payment. Many still waiting for their $1,200 payment are low-income veterans and Social Security beneficiaries.
“I’m a 100 percent disabled veteran who served in combat in Iraq,” Robert Haynes, 54, of Calimesa, Calif., told The Post. “I did everything they asked me, and I haven’t gotten anything. I’m seeing everyone post, ‘I got my money,’ and I’m sitting here wondering, what’s going on with the veterans?”
Over the weekend, the Treasury Department announced it had made “significant enhancements” to the Get My Payment tool to fix several glitches. For example, many taxpayers complained that it would not allow them to move forward because they neither owed any money to the IRS nor received a refund for 2018 or 2019. Correctly putting in zero didn’t work. This situation might occur because a taxpayer directed the IRS to apply a refund to the following year’s tax bill.
A Treasury spokeswoman said fixes to Get My Payment include payment status for closed bank accounts, greater access for taxpayers who filed in 2018 but did not use direct deposit for a refund and the ability to submit a zero for the question about refund amount or amount owed.
During the weekend, following the updates, I began hearing from a few readers who said they could finally enter direct deposit information.
Raj Gupta from Maryland said that after repeated attempts, with his assistance, his adult daughter and son were able to enter their bank information. “One of the reasons why they prefer entering direct deposit ASAP is to preempt receiving a check that bears Trump’s name,” he said.
Even with the updates, you may still get a notification that says “Payment Status Not Available.” Check this FAQ to see why.
If you’re still waiting on your stimulus money, here is an estimate of when more payments will be delivered.
— Social Security, survivor and disability non-filers will see economic impact payments in their bank accounts by April 29, according to a Treasury spokeswoman.
— SSI non-filers should begin seeing payments in early May.
— Veterans benefit recipients should also begin receiving their stimulus payments by early May, a Treasury spokeswoman said.
— In an update posted Sunday, the IRS said that if you have successfully entered your bank information “any day until noon on Tuesday, your payment date will be available beginning the following Saturday.” If you miss the Tuesday deadline, you have to wait another week to get a payment date. Or, if your payment has already been processed, you’ll get a check that could take up to 14 days to receive.
— If you receive SSI or Veterans Affairs benefits and didn’t file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, you have until May 5 to use the non-filer tool on the IRS website to receive the $500 payment per dependent child under 17. If you miss the deadline to register dependent children, you will still get your $1,200 payment, but you will have to wait until next year to get the additional $500 when you file a 2020 tax return.
The May 5 deadline is only applicable to SSI and VA beneficiaries who need to let the IRS know they have dependents eligible for the $500. No action is necessary if you don’t need to register a dependent. Your stimulus payment will be automatically sent just as you would normally receive your benefits by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card or check.
Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries who don’t file tax returns were given until noon April 22 to claim an extra $500 payment for dependents under 17 — or risk waiting until next year for the funds. The IRS sent the notice about the deadline just two and a half days before people had to act. Unless the deadline is extended, those who missed the cutoff will get their stimulus payments of $1,200 but will now have to wait until next year to collect the extra $500 per child when they file their 2020 tax return.
A bipartisan group of Senators that included Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) sent a letter to Treasury and the IRS last week pleading that Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries be allowed to register their dependent children this year.
The “short timeline and the limited outreach to-date risk leaving many of these beneficiaries unaware of the need to take immediate action to receive the full Cares Act payments this year,” the letter said. “Further, only providing an online option may preclude some individuals from providing the needed information. The online non-filer portal may not be an accessible option for those who do not have internet access in their homes and are not currently able to use the computer at their local community center due to safety measures in place during the coronavirus pandemic.”
The first wave of payments included individuals and couples who had filed either a 2018 or 2019 federal return and received a refund. The Cares Act gives the treasury secretary authorization to electronically deposit the stimulus payment into accounts taxpayers had designated for direct deposit of tax refunds on or after Jan. 1, 2018.
However, the IRS cannot make direct deposits into bank accounts used to make electronic tax payments, even if that account information is known to the agency, according to IRS spokesman Eric Smith.
Your money and the pandemic: Here’s a guide with answers to your most pressing personal finance questions on the economic fallout of covid-19. We will be updating it regularly, so please send us your questions.
Please join me on Thursday, April 30, at noon (Eastern time) for a live discussion about your money.
Reader Question of the Week
If you have a retirement question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line, put “Question of the Week.”
The answers for this week’s reader questions come from Lynn Ballou and Erin Voisin, both certified financial planners and partners with California-based EP Wealth Advisors.
Ballou: I am not aware of anything that would keep you from qualifying for a hardship withdrawal since the family is experiencing hardship. It’s not my favorite way of accessing liquidity, however, as the reader might be selling low to create the liquidity to withdraw funds and then repaying that money and reinvesting in the future when the market recovers and prices are higher.
Voisin: He would qualify. But as Lynn indicates, I would see what other options they have for liquidity.
Q: If my stimulus payment was less than the $1,200 because I earned too much for 2019, can I get the rest of the money when I file next year? My income will drop below $75,000 this year.
Voisin: Yes, you would be entitled to the rest of the $1,200. The stimulus payment technically is an advanced 2020 tax credit. From my understanding, this is what would generate the potential tax credit on your 2020 return to make up the difference. Additionally, the way the Cares Act is written and the current interpretation is that if income changes and increases, the money will not have to be paid back.
Retirement Rants and Raves
Your thoughts: How have you been financially impacted by the coronavirus? Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. Put “Coronavirus Impact” in the subject line. I’m also interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. You can rant or rave. In the subject line, put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”
Here’s one couple’s story of managing through this coronavirus pandemic.
“I am currently employed at a municipal wastewater treatment plant, so I am an ‘essential employee,’ ” wrote Jeff Carlson of Vernon, Conn. “My wife and I would be in total panic mode if I didn’t have this stable job with benefits. I just took a $7,000 withdrawal from my IRA to pay bills. Obviously, our IRAs took huge hits in the last couple of months. I guess, because we generally pay income tax, rather than get a refund, we have not received our stimulus check and the IRS system says there is no information available.”
The couple’s side business doing party and wedding decorations has been decimated because of social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“We often do four to eight weddings on the weekends in peak season,” Carlson wrote. “We had over 100 jobs booked before this hit. Everything is on hold. We have started giving back deposits for a few cancellations. The wedding gig was going to continue after I retired from my wastewater job. I’m 64, planning to retire in about a year, but we’ll see what happens. We’re better off than a lot of people. I still have a job, so we have some income. I understand that my wife might be able to apply for unemployment, but we can’t figure out how to do it, and we have been told to wait until the system is in place. The decoration business was to be our means to a comfortable retirement. Now, we have no idea what the future holds.”