It’s officially tax filing season in the United States. That means many people are looking for answers to all of their filing questions.
In 2020 and 2021, the federal government issued three rounds of economic impact payments, or stimulus checks, to provide financial relief to eligible Americans during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several VERIFY viewers, including Samuel and Tyrone, sent in questions asking our team if there is a way to claim a missed stimulus check on their taxes.
Is there a way to claim a missed stimulus check on your taxes?
Yes, you can claim a missed stimulus check, but you have to file a 2020 or 2021 tax return if you don't usually file one or an amended one if you have already filed.
WHAT WE FOUND
In 2020, the federal government introduced the Recovery Rebate Credit during the coronavirus pandemic — stimulus checks were advance payments of this tax credit. The first and second rounds of stimulus checks were issued in 2020 and early 2021. The third round of checks was issued between March and December 2021.
The IRS stopped issuing stimulus checks as of Jan. 26, 2022. But taxpayers may still be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 or 2021 federal tax returns if they didn’t get a stimulus check, or received less than the full amount. You must file a return for those years to claim the credit, even if you don't usually file a tax return. If you did file a return but didn’t claim the credit, you must file an amended return to get the credit.
The IRS says it’s important for eligible individuals who are claiming a Recovery Rebate Credit to understand that the stimulus checks that were dispersed applied to different tax years. This means that missing first and second stimulus checks may only be claimed on a 2020 federal tax return, while missing third stimulus checks may only be claimed on a 2021 federal tax return.
“Depending on which advance payment is missing – the first, second or third payment – you will file either a 2020 or 2021 tax return to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit,” the IRS says on its website.
To see if you’re eligible to claim the 2020 or 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit for missing stimulus checks, you’ll need the tax year and amount of the payments you did receive in order to accurately calculate the credit. The IRS says you can either enter the amount in your tax preparation software or in the Form 1040 Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet (found on the last page of the return) to calculate the credit. You can determine your eligibility by checking:
Your online account: Access your IRS online account to view the total amount of your first, second and third stimulus check amounts under the Tax Records page.
IRS notices: The IRS mailed the following notices to the addresses it has on file:
Notice 1444: Shows the first Economic Impact Payment advanced for tax year 2020
Notice 1444-B: Shows the second Economic Impact Payment advanced for tax year 2020
Notice 1444-C: Shows the third Economic Impact Payment advanced for tax year 2021
The IRS also sent letters to over 9 million taxpayers last fall who appeared to qualify for the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit but had not claimed it on their federal tax return.
If you’re eligible for a 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit but didn’t claim it on your original 2021 federal tax return, the IRS says you’ll need to file an amended return to claim the credit. If you filed your 2021 return electronically and need to file an amended return, you still may be able to file Form 1040-X electronically. If you didn’t file electronically, you’ll need to mail a paper version of the form to the IRS. You can use the Where's My Amended Return? tool to check the status of your amended return.
The IRS won’t calculate the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit for you if you didn’t enter any amount on your original tax return, or if you entered $0. The IRS will treat this as your decision not to claim the credit, according to personal finance site Kiplinger.
If you entered an incorrect amount ($1 or more) for the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit on your tax return, you do not have to file an amended tax return. The IRS will calculate the correct amount of the credit, correct your tax return and continue processing it.
“The IRS won't contact you before making a correction, and you won't have to provide any additional information, but at least the IRS will send you a notice explaining any changes they make. This will also delay the processing of your return,” Kiplinger says on its website.
The same rules apply to claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit. If you haven’t already filed a 2020 federal tax return, you can still file a paper return to claim the credit, even if you don't usually file. If you did file a 2020 federal tax return but didn’t claim the credit, you can file an amended return to claim it.
If you were issued a stimulus check but didn’t receive it, eFile.com says you may be able to trace the payment by calling the IRS at 1-800-919-9835 and mailing this form to the agency. The IRS will investigate the case and will respond about six weeks after the request is received.
The Recovery Rebate Credit was a temporary program established for 2020 and 2021 only, according to eFile.com. There is no 2022 Recovery Rebate Credit, and the IRS does not plan on bringing the program back. This means you can’t claim any missing stimulus checks on your 2022 federal tax return. You have until April 15, 2024, to claim the first two stimulus checks with a 2020 tax return, and until April 15, 2025, to claim the third payment on a 2021 return.