CORONAVIRUS

Some won't get $600 stimulus until filing for 2020

$2,000 checks now more likely with Senate turnover

Now that Democrats have won control of the U.S. Senate, $2,000 stimulus checks are likely to be enacted. Above, observer
Now that Democrats have won control of the U.S. Senate, $2,000 stimulus checks are likely to be enacted. Above, observers watch an official work as ballots are counted in Atlanta Wednesday for Georgia’s Senate runoff election. (Associated Press)
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WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Treasury rushes to distribute second stimulus payments, many Americans learned this week they will not receive the $600 until they file their 2020 tax return, a delay threatening additional hardship.

The Treasury has paid out about 68 percent of the payments so far, with millions of Americans receiving their $600 via direct deposit or a check in the mail.

Yet some Americans still are waiting to receive their money, and others will not receive any money until they file their 2020 tax return.

The IRS declined to say how many people are affected by the requirement to file a tax return before receiving a stimulus payment. But the National Consumer Law Center said it could be up to 20 million.

While the IRS is getting more of the money out faster than it did in 2020, the agency is facing mounting public criticism for delaying stimulus payments for some Americans until they file tax returns — especially as the economy continues to deteriorate amid the surging pandemic.

“The problem is this bill was passed right at the start of the 2020 tax season,” said John Koskinen, the former IRS commissioner under President Barack Obama.

“This has all hit when critical testing of the operations of the tax filing system are going on, and without delaying some checks, they can’t get it all done. But it’s not helpful to people waiting for money.”

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The IRS is urging people to use the “Get My Payment” tool on the IRS website to check the status of their payment.

If that tool returns a message that says “Payment Status #2 — Not Available,” then the person will not be receiving a payment via direct deposit or check in the mail, according to an IRS statement issued late Tuesday.

People who receive the “not available” message are supposed to claim the credit on their 2020 tax return, which they can begin filing later this month.

Americans have until April 15 to file taxes.

“The IRS advises people that if they don’t receive their Economic Impact Payment, they should file their 2020 tax return electronically and claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax return to get their payment and any refund as quickly as possible,” the IRS said.

People have flooded social media in outrage over the IRS decision to force some people to wait to get the money by filing their taxes.

“My heart was just sinking more and more when I realized we weren’t going to get the money, and we’ll have to get by the next two weeks until payday with $80 in our bank account,” said Megan Kramar, a mother in Salt Lake City.

“I couldn’t sleep last night. I don’t know what we are going to do. We were counting on this money.”

Some Americans are confused as to why they received a first stimulus check last year from the IRS but are getting the “status not available” message about their second stimulus check.

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The IRS said that if a payment is sent to a bank account that has been closed or no longer is active, then the bank must send it back to the IRS.

The IRS must issue all payments by Jan. 15 because then the IRS needs to focus on the 2020 tax filing season.

Treasury has paid out $112.3 billion so far in the second round of the Economic Impact Payments, according to data released Monday.

Some who used TurboTax, Jackson Hewitt H&R Block or another tax preparation service to file their 2019 taxes say they are among those who are not able to receive the second stimulus payment.

TurboTax said Wednesday that it is working with the IRS to fix the issue.

President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he wants to send most Americans $2,000 payments.

Now that Democrats have won control of the U.S. Senate — Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Jon Ossoff beat Republican David Perdue, both in Georgia — that is likely to be enacted.

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