Please Note

The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

The IRS says 130 million stimulus payments worth more than $200 billion have been sent out.

But for the millions of people who haven’t received their payments — up to $1,200 for individuals — not knowing when, or if, the money is coming has them on edge.

On Friday, the IRS said eligible taxpayers who are still waiting on their stimulus payments have until 12 p.m. Wednesday, May 13, to use the “Get My Payment” portal to input direct deposit information to avoid having to wait for a check in the mail.

“After noon Wednesday, the IRS will begin preparing millions of files to send to BFS [Bureau of Fiscal Services] for paper checks that will begin arriving through late May and into June,” the IRS said Friday.

If people miss the deadline or can’t access the “Get My Payment” online tool, which has been plagued by glitches, they may be waiting until June or later to receive their economic impact payment in the mail.

Here’s one situation in which you might want to use the “Get My Payment” tool: You are unsure if your filed 2019 return has been fully processed by the IRS. Don’t assume that it has been. Some folks on a Reddit group — r/stimuluscheck — have been posting their concerns about falling through the cracks.

“Many of us have not yet received a stimulus payment because we have no 2018 taxes on file,” said Kimberlyn Quinn, who lives in Oregon. Because of the coronavirus, she was laid off as a spa esthetician.

Quinn, like many in her situation, can’t use the non-filers tool that the IRS created to get payments to people who aren’t required to file a return. If you intend to file a 2019 return or have filed one already, the agency says don’t use this portal.

So, until the IRS processes their returns, their stimulus payment eligibility cannot be determined.

“It’s frustrating for sure,” said Quinn, who filed her 2019 return in January. A notice from the IRS says her return and refund “is still being processed.”

I host a chat every week on personal finance. Here’s a condensed and edited transcript of last week’s chat. Most questions were about the stimulus money.

Q: Where is my check? Who can help? This is frustrating! No place to enter a request to fix a problem. I am a Social Security recipient and have not filed taxes for several years. I have not received a check although I get my Social Security payments through direct deposit. I have tried to go online multiple times and entered my information, but I keep getting a message that says the IRS either can’t determine my payment status or they don’t have enough information.

A: If you fall within the income limits to get a payment, you should get an economic impact payment. Not having it by now doesn’t mean you aren’t getting the money. It could just mean the IRS hasn’t gotten to you yet. Because you have not filed taxes for years, your payment will be based on your status of receiving Social Security, and as such, you were not in the first wave of folks getting payments.

Think of it like the lines at the supermarket.

People who got their payments already were in the “15 items or less” line. They had a return on file with the IRS and — this is key — had a refund due to them in 2018 or 2019.

Then there are the other lines. Some appear long, but the cashier gets people through fairly quickly.

Most frustrating is the line with the chatty cashier. It looks short, but it takes super long — that’s people getting Social Security, survivor, disability, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement, or veterans compensation and pension benefits. You would think this line would go quicker because their information is already on file at a government agency or department. But it’s not at the IRS. So the IRS had to get information from the Social Security Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs, transfer that information to its system, and then start making payments.

I know this is hard to hear, but you have to just be patient. The money is coming if you’re entitled to it; you’re just in the line with the well-meaning but slow or chatty cashier.

Q: As far as the coronavirus stimulus check, do 401(k) or Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) withdrawals count as income? My husband and I have not received any stimulus money. Our 2018 income from pension and part-time work was less than the $150,000 limit for a couple to receive the full $2,400 stimulus amount. But with 401(k) and TSP withdrawals, our income was pushed above the $198,000 limit to receive any stimulus money. The “Get My Payment” tool continues to return “Payment Status Not Available.” I haven’t read anything that indicates whether 401(k) or TSP withdrawals count as income. I think it shouldn’t because it’s money we already had, similar to money in a savings account. Do you know if it counts or not?

A: Based on the information you provided, you do not qualify for a stimulus payment because the money you withdrew from your 401(k) and TSP does count as income. This is part of the deal with workplace retirement plans. You fund the account with pretax dollars. While in the account, your contributions and earnings grow tax-free. It’s not until you withdraw the money that income taxes are due. There are also limitations to accessing the money because of the tax break. This is why it’s different from a savings account, which you can tap whenever you want.

Q: When can those of us receiving Social Security survivor benefits expect to get the stimulus money? I could really use it now to pay for food and other essentials.

A: The IRS and Treasury tell me the money is coming. “We’re working hard to get more payments quickly to taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

To understand more about the delays, here’s a timeline of IRS stimulus payment glitches.

Q: I received a stimulus payment for $96. It seemed low (but what do I know), so I mentioned it to a few friends, and the response was generally, “Whoa! You make a lot more than I do!” I make under $100,000. A friend who I assumed makes around what I make received almost $1,000. What is the formula for calculating payments? Also, if I’m entitled to more, is there a specific department of the IRS that I should contact? To be clear, I don’t “need” this money, but if I’m entitled to it, I’d like to use it to help others.

A: Please double-check your actual adjusted gross income (AGI). A number of people have written to me thinking their payment was incorrect, and it turns out they did receive the correct amounts. To find your AGI, look at Line 8b on your 2019 return or Line 7 for your 2018 return

Here’s a stimulus calculator, where you can get an estimate of your payment.

But let’s say you indeed received the incorrect amount. Unfortunately, you will not be able to get the balance of your payment until you file a 2020 federal return next year, according to the IRS. Technically, the stimulus money is an advance 2020 credit. So, unless there’s a reversal of this decision, no further funds will come to you until you file a return in 2021.

Q: My mother-in-law received the stimulus payment check for her and her late husband, who died last year. Like the person in your article, his name said “deceased” after it. She spoke to the bank, the bank called the IRS and said it was okay to deposit, just have her endorse both names. Now, she finds out he wasn’t eligible. She’s angry and a little worried because she doesn’t have ready money to repay the IRS. What should she do now? How long does she have to repay them? Whoever at the IRS that thought this was a good idea should get yelled at.

A: The IRS first told me the same thing, which was surviving spouses could keep all the money. For now, I would say your mother-in-law shouldn’t worry. It may take some time before it’s a problem she has to address.

One last point on stimulus promises vs. reality. In communications with taxpayers, the IRS has repeatedly said that payments would come to people receiving federal benefits the same way they typically get their money. That has not been the case for a lot of federal beneficiaries, and it has caused quite a bit of anxiety.

“Thought I’d let you know that my stimulus check arrived in the mail on May 5,” one reader wrote. “I’d have preferred a direct deposit by the same method as my monthly Social Security, but the important thing is that the check did get to me.”

Live Chat

Please join me on Thursday, May 14, 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 colorofmoney@washpost.com. In the subject line, put “Question of the Week.”

Like my chat, the overwhelming majority of comments and questions this week were about the stimulus payments.

Q: My husband receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and received his stimulus check last week, but I did not get mine. I am his caregiver and have had no income in four years. I used the non-filers tool and got an email saying it was accepted, but still get the “Payment Status Not Available” with the “Get My Payment” tool. I’m very concerned I will not receive a stimulus check. I have no dependents and nobody claims me as one. I am eligible, so what now?

A: It’s hard not to worry that you won’t get your money when you hear millions of others have gotten a payment, even dead people.

But the IRS still has about 20 million more payments to make. So, it’s very likely you are in this group. The message that your payment status is not available does not mean you are not eligible, or even that there is a problem. It may just mean the system hasn’t gotten to your information to process a check or direct deposit.

Q: We just filed our 2017, 2018 and 2019 tax returns. The IRS owes us for 2017 and 2018. We owe a little more than $2,000 for 2019. Will we get a stimulus check? What should we expect?

A: If you meet the income threshold for a stimulus payment, you will get it. Because you just filed your 2018 and 2019 returns, the IRS may not have fully processed the information to know to send you a payment. It may take weeks for the agency to get to your returns because staffing is still down. In the meantime, be sure to still input your banking information in the “Get My Payment” tool by May 13.

Q: My neighbors and my friends have received this money. They got a paper check about two days after their direct deposit of Social Security. But it’s more than a week since I have gotten my Social Security. I am afraid that I was purged by mistake, and yet I have no way to telephone or email the IRS. What can I do?

A: The timing of the stimulus payment for Social Security and other federal beneficiaries is not timed to when you get your regular monthly benefit. The IRS has said that payments to federal beneficiaries would be sent starting the last week in April and the beginning of May. For whatever reason, you’re still in the line to be served.

Retirement Rants and Raves

Your thoughts: How have you been financially impacted by the coronavirus? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.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.”

Betsy Todd of Austin summed up how a lot of folks are feeling.

“I’m better off than some in that I have Social Security and state retirement payments coming in monthly,” Todd wrote. “But I worry about cuts to, or complete elimination of, those payments. And costs for most things are higher — delivery costs, premiums on items others are hoarding, etc. I’m trying to help those who have less than I do. I need to make repairs to my house but am afraid to spend on anything that isn’t an absolute necessity. Two of my siblings work in health care and work every day to help the sick. And now I hear that the IRS hasn’t sent electronic payments to many Social Security recipients like me. The ‘Get My Payment’ tool finally told me I was eligible and allowed me to enter my bank information about 10 days ago. But it won’t give me a date to expect my payment. I finally called my congressman’s office and was surprised that someone answered. But they seem to be as frustrated about the process as I am. No real answers for anyone. I don’t know who to trust in government anymore. I hear from the current administration and I am revolted by the childishness and lies. I see the heroes and truth-tellers being fired because they acted courageously. Lots of us are depressed. Thanks for letting me rant. I appreciate that you are willing to listen.”