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Stimulus checks: Why you might not be able to track your payment

Debt collectors seizing stimulus checks

About 80 million Americans received their stimulus checks last week, slightly more than half of the country's 150 million taxpayers. That means millions are still waiting for their payments, with many of them turning to the IRS' "Get My Payment" service for an update on when the money will land.  

Yet the rollout of the "Get My Payment" service on April 15 wasn't entirely smooth. Dozens of consumers reached out to CBS MoneyWatch to complain that they were unable to find information about their checks, with many receiving a statement that read, "Payment status not available." Others said their payments were sent to the wrong bank accounts. 

The IRS and U.S. Treasury Department have provided more information in the last few days about why some consumers haven't been able to track the progress of their checks. While it might not clear up every problem, it could explain why many taxpayers are still in the dark.

The rollout of the stimulus checks has been eagerly anticipated as millions of Americans struggle to pay their bills amid a blizzard of layoffs. About 1 in 7 workers has lost their job in the last month, with state economies shuttering in a bid to contain the coronavirus. The stimulus checks — $1,200 for single taxpayers earning less than $75,000 and $2,400 for married couples earning less than $150,000 — are geared toward helping households weather the crisis. 

Here's why some taxpayers are receiving the "Payment status not available" response, according to the IRS and Treasury.

You recently filed your 2019 return

If you recently filed your 2019 tax return, the IRS is processing your tax filing. That could result in a "Payment status not available" response from the website, the tax agency said on its website. 

The IRS doesn't have your data yet

The agency is updating its "Get My Payment" site once per day with more data from taxpayers, presumably for the 70 million taxpayers who didn't receive their stimulus payments last week.

That's what Jason Hale, 25, of Oak Park, Illinois, believes happened with his stimulus check. When he tried to use the site last week, it told him his status wasn't available. But he said he had filed his 2019 tax returns several weeks ago and received a refund. Days later the IRS website gave him an answer: His stimulus check will be arriving via direct deposit on April 22.

"I think they just didn't finish processing my stimulus money yet to be ready to go into my account," he told CBS MoneyWatch. "I think I just wasn't in that 80 million who got their payments on April 15."

"We update 'Get My Payment' data once per day, overnight, so there is no need to check more often," the IRS said. "If you are eligible for a payment and have provided your information either through a recent tax return or the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here application, please check back for updates."

You usually don't file a return

Some people aren't required to file tax returns, such as some seniors who rely on Social Security as their sole source of income.

The IRS has a separate site set up for non-tax filers to enter their payment info, but if you did that and are receiving the "Payment status not available" message, it could mean the IRS hasn't processed your data yet. 

Similarly, the IRS may not have uploaded data for consumers receiving veterans benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits yet, so they may also receive the same message. 

You aren't eligible 

Millions of Americans aren't eligible for the federal stimulus payments, either because their income is too high or they fall into a group of people who are excluded from the benefit. 

The stimulus checks phase out for single taxpayers who earn more than $99,000 or for married couples with income above $198,000. Young people who are 17 or 18 aren't eligible for the $500 payment for children, while adult dependents — such as college students — are also excluded. Nonresident aliens, or immigrants without a green card, also can't claim a stimulus check. 

You used a tax refund loan 

Another culprit could be whether taxpayers filed through tax prep services such as H&R Block or TurboTax and received tax refund anticipation loans, according to a Treasury Department spokeswoman. 

Why some millionaires are receiving coronavirus stimulus funds

That's because the IRS has said it doesn't have direct-deposit information for those taxpayers if the tax prep firms put the refunds into temporary accounts or debit cards. In that case, consumers should enter their bank account information into the IRS "Get My Payment" site, according to the Treasury Department. 

However, both H&R Block and TurboTax said the IRS should have their clients' direct deposit information.

What to do if you can't get an answer

Unfortunately, the IRS telephone help line isn't working because the agency closed it due to the pandemic. That makes it hard for consumers to check the status of their returns or what could be holding up their stimulus checks. 

In the meantime, the IRS recommends that consumers check the "Get My Payment" site daily in case their information has been added. 

Eligible consumers will receive their checks — it's a question of when and how. Some may need to wait for paper checks to arrive in the mail, which could take weeks or months to arrive. 

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