I am one of several Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Field Specialists that assist families with tax preparation and e-filing. This past week, I have been receiving at least one phone call a day from individuals wanting to know where their refund is. Many tell me they have already been to the website to check their status. The only place individuals should be checking their refund status is at the IRS.gov web site. Likewise, if you are wondering about the status of your Third Economic Impact Payment (generally $1400/person), the IRS web site is your source.
IRS.gov is the only safe place to check your refund or your stimulus payment
Refund Status. There are ONLY THREE QUESTIONS that need to be answered when using the Get Your Refund Status link on the IRS.gov website: 1) The Social Security number of the person listed on the return as the FIRST NAME on the return (not the spouse); 2) Your FILING STATUS (single, married filing jointly, head of household, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er)); and 3) the amount of your refund, which is found on line 35A of page 2 of your federal tax return.
Stimulus Payment Status. Here again, the IRS has THREE QUESTIONS, although they are different. The needed information is: 1) Your Social Security number; 2) Your date of birth; and 3) Your mailing address. The mailing address can be tricky if you have moved recently. Generally, you should enter the mailing address on the most recent tax return the IRS has processed from you. However, if you have not filed a tax return in recent years, use the mailing address on file at Social Security or the Veterans Administration. Note: The tool to check your stimulus payment only relates to the third economic impact payment, authorized in the American Rescue Plan signed in mid-March. If you have not received either of the first two payments, your only option is to file a 2020 tax return, even if you have no income to report. The tax return allows you to claim the first two stimulus payments, and also sets the wheels in motion to process your third payment.
If you “google” where’s my refund and are taken to a website that asks for additional information, such as your salary, mother’s maiden name, or any other personal information, you are in the wrong place; you may be giving your personal information to someone who is stealing your identity.
For many of us, the $1200 Economic Impact Payment (EIP) authorized by the CARES Act is old news; I, for example, received my payment in early May. But if you have not received the payment, it is not too late! There are steps you can take to claim the payment! Take these steps by October 15 to avoid further delay.
A first step is to find out if you are eligible. Most adults are eligible if they have a social security number, are not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return and have income below the (generous) income guidelines. Even people who do not need to file a tax return are eligible. This includes people whose main income source is Social Security, or a non-taxable income such as SSI or VA benefits. If you have friends or family members who should receive the payment, help them out by sharing this information!
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) manages the EIP program and maintains a webpage to assist us and keep us informed. They offer two tools. The first is called “Get My Payment.” At this secure IRS site, users enter their social security number, date of birth, and address. Note as long as you are at the real IRS site, you can feel safe entering that information. If you file taxes jointly with a spouse, we suggest you enter the information about the spouse who is listed first on the tax return. The second IRS tool is the “Non-Filers Tool,” designed for those who do not need to file a tax return.
For many people, the first step in claiming the payment is to file their 2019 tax return. Yes, the deadline is past, but you can still file anyway. In many cases, my co-workers and I can connect you with a way to file your tax return for free.
Final Note: it is our understanding that filing a 2020 tax return (starting in February of 2021) will provide one last chance to claim the EIP, and will be used to verify that households received the correct EIP amount. However, we do not yet know how that will work. And why delay?! Take action now to claim this valuable benefit!
Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.