The federal stimulus payments aimed at helping Americans weather the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic seem to have generated as much anxiety as relief. At the top of the list are how and when the checks are being distributed, with the IRS noting on Friday that it has issued 130 million payments worth a total of $200 billion.
That still leaves about 20 million Americans awaiting their money. Although the payments can vary in amount depending on income, family size and other factors, single taxpayers who earn less than $75,000 a year can generally expect a payment of $1,200. Married taxpayers earning less than $150,000 receive $2,400, while children under the age of 17 are eligible to get $500 each.
That can add up to $3,400 for a family of four. But it's not always clear to consumers when the money will land in their mailboxes or bank accounts. The answer depends on a number of things, including when you filed your most recent returns and whether the IRS has your bank account information on file.
The IRS rolled out a tool called "Get My Payment" last month to help taxpayers figure out when they'll receive their payment and update their bank information. Yet many consumers reported that the site gave them an ambiguous message — "Payment status not available" — that only fueled frustration.
Residents in some states have had more luck getting their payments than others, according to a CBS MoneyWatch analysis of IRS data and the number of taxpayers in each state. West Virginia has the highest share of taxpayers who have received their payments, with almost all taxpayers having received their payments. The lowest share is New Jersey, where about 7 in 10 people have their stimulus checks in hand.
The gap between those two states likely comes down to residents' income, tax filing status and bank account information. The IRS is first sending checks to lower- and middle-income households. Because New Jersey's median annual household income is almost $82,000 — almost twice West Virginia's $44,000 — it's possible more taxpayers in New Jersey will receive their checks later.
Here are some other reasons you may be one of the 20 million people still waiting for your stimulus check.
Taxpayers now have until July 15 to file their 2019 tax returns, which means more taxpayers waited to file their taxes this year. If you recently filed your 2019 return, the IRS is processing your tax filing, which could result in a "Payment status not available" response from the website. As a result, your stimulus check may be sent later than taxpayers who filed earlier in the year.
The IRS is sending paper checks to taxpayers according to income, with lower-earning households on tap to receive their payments first. For instance, individual taxpayers who earn less than $10,000 will receive their checks first, with the IRS mailing more checks each week by income level.
It could take up to 20 weeks to get all the checks out. That timeline would delay some checks until late August, the Associated Press reported last month.
Single taxpayers who earn more than $99,000 and married taxpayers who earn more than $198,000 annually are phased out of the stimulus payments. Taxpayers who earn just below those levels may receive their checks later than lower-earning households because of the distribution schedule.
The IRS prioritized direct deposits before mailing out paper checks. In other words, if the agency didn't have your bank information on file, you could be in for a wait for your payment.
Taxpayers who owed money to the IRS (see more on this below) and who didn't provide their bank account information to the agency for a refund when they filed their taxes could fall into this group.
The country's roughly 8.4 million "unbanked" households, or those who lack bank accounts, would also be impacted by this issue. These are typically low-income households who lack a checking account, which means the IRS isn't able to send them a payment by direct deposit.
Not all Americans are required to file taxes, such as people who earn less than $12,200 as well as Social Security recipients who rely on the benefit for their sole source of income. While the IRS is sending stimulus checks automatically to all Social Security recipients including those who don't file tax returns, the agency says other non-filers need to provide their payment information at this site.
If you switched banks since you last filed your taxes, the IRS might have sent your stimulus check to a closed account or one that is no longer active. In that case, the bank will reject the deposit, and the IRS will issue you a paper check, which will be mailed to the address on your tax return. Naturally, this may result in a delay in receiving your payment.
If you owed the IRS on your last return and used a direct payment method like an electronic funds withdrawal to make the payment, the tax agency says it won't use that method to send you a stimulus check.
In that case, you'll need to go to the "Get My Payment" site and enter your bank account information for your direct deposit. If the IRS says that if you don't take this step, it will mail the check to you rather than rely on direct deposit.
With reporting by Irina Ivanova.
First published on May 11, 2020 / 3:24 PM
© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.