Issue III: Economic Impact Payments (“Stimulus Checks”) & COVID-19

April 28, 2020

Part of our COVID-19 Consumer Protection Guide series.

Millions of Americans have received their economic impact payments, or “stimulus checks,” yet many of us are still waiting. The IRS’s website has a lot of information about these payments and how to obtain them. Our FAQs have some basic info on the payments – and some tips to help avoid scammers who want to steal the money from you.

FAQs on Economic Impact Payments

Q. Am I eligible for a payment?

A. If you are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or qualifying resident alien, and you make less than $75,000, you are eligible for a $1,200 payment for individuals.

Married spouses filing jointly are eligible for $2,400 payments, and folks with underage children are eligible for an additional $500 per child. For those with individual incomes ranging $75,000 – $99,000, the payment is reduced. For more on eligibility and calculating your payment, check out the IRS’s website.

Q. Why haven’t I received my payment yet?

A. The IRS has to handle tens of millions of payments each week, so yours might not be out yet. If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and the IRS processed it, you can use the IRS’s Get My Payment tool to check the status of your payment.

Most filers who received their tax refunds through direct deposit will get their economic impact payment through direct deposit into the same bank account.

However, there have been glitches with the system, especially for people who used their tax refund to pay for chain tax preparers like H&R Block, or who used online tax preparers like TurboTax. The IRS has said they have addressed these issues, but there may still be delays.

You may also see a “payment status unavailable” message when you use the tool. There are several reasons that you received this message, including that your 2019 tax return has not been processed yet.

Q. What if I can’t get my payment through direct deposit?

A. The IRS will mail you a check if direct deposit is unavailable.

Q. What if I did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return?

A. First, find out if you should file a return, and do so if needed. If you do not need to file a return, you can use this tool to apply for the stimulus payment.

Q. Can I be charged to get the payment?

A. No! If anyone tries to get you to pay for an economic impact payment, they are a scammer. Beware of scammers online and on the phone.

Q. Will the IRS call me to get personal information for the payment? 

A. No! The IRS will not call you. If someone calls and asks for personal information, they are almost certainly a scammer.

Q. How can I protect my payment from identity thieves?

A. Check the status of your payment, and make sure you apply for your payment if you are not required to file a return.

Additionally, check your credit reports for free and make sure there are no unauthorized accounts or information there, since those may be signs that your identity has been stolen.

Q. Can my payment be garnished by debt collectors?

A. Governor Newsom announced that debt collectors will not be able to garnish Californians’ economic impact payments, and that payments that were garnished have to be returned.

You do not have to take any action to protect your stimulus payment. The protection is retroactive, so any money taken by debt collectors from the stimulus payments must be returned. There are exceptions for those who owe money in spousal support, child support, or owe for victim restitution. Read the full text of the Executive Order here.

This guide is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice.