Millions of Americans are eagerly awaiting their second stimulus checks of $600 for each eligible adult and child. The IRS on Tuesday said it had started to distribute the checks via direct deposit that evening, a process that will extend into next week.
The tax agency added that it is mailing paper checks on December 30 to people who don't have their bank account info on file with the IRS. But even so, the timeline leaves many people wondering when exactly the check will land in their accounts — especially as the IRS' website for checking one's payment status is unavailable.
The second stimulus check follows a rocky rollout this spring for more than 160 million stimulus payments directed by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. That relief effort, which directed $1,200 for each eligible adult and $500 for each eligible child, encountered a number of problems, such as a delay in payment to people who didn't have their bank account information on file with the IRS, as was the case for some Social Security recipients.
The IRS will use the same method to get the money to people as it did in the first round, said Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt.
"If taxpayers received a direct deposit then, they will again; if they received a mailed check or debit card then, they will again," he said.
But the IRS' "Get My Payment" website is currently offline. The agency said it expects its "Get My Payment" tool to be operating again "in a few days," although it didn't specify a date.
That's a problem, although the site should be up by next week, based on the IRS' statement, Steber noted. "The updated website should include information on both the first and second stimulus payments," he said.
That website allowed people this spring to provide or update their bank account data to the IRS. It also informed people when their checks would be landing in their accounts. But it, too, had glitches. Some people reported getting error messages such as "Payment status not available," while others got locked out of the site.
"Payments are automatic"
On December 29, the IRS said the "payments are automatic" for people who filed a 2019 tax return, as well as for people who receive Social Security benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits or Supplemental Security Income and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who didn't file a tax return.
The IRS added that people who successfully used the Non-Filers tool by November 21 — a site created to make sure that people who don't normally file tax returns would get a payment — would receive their second stimulus checks automatically.
The payments won't be taxed because they are not considered earned income, Steber said. But, he added, "taxpayers should keep their Notice 1444 from the IRS, which shows the exact amount they received, to reconcile their payments so they can receive any additional amount due on their 2020 tax return."
How much will I get?
The IRS is sending $600 to each eligible adult and child — not the $2,000 that had been pushed by President Donald Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked an attempt to vote on the $2,000 stimulus checks approved by the House, but resurrected the higher payments in a new bill that includes other items on Mr. Trump's wish list, including the repeal of Section 230, which shields social media companies from lawsuits.
While it's unlikely the stimulus checks will get bumped up to $2,000, the Treasury Department said it would be able to handle that possibility. "If additional legislation is enacted to provide for an increased amount, Economic Impact Payments that have been issued will be topped up as quickly as possible," according to a Treasury statement on December 29.
The second round of payments directs $600 for single people who earn up to $75,000 and $1,200 to married couples who earn up to $150,000.
The amount then declines for people earning above those thresholds, and completely phases out for single people who earn over $87,000 and married couples with earnings over $174,000. Children under 17 years old will receive $600 each. Children who are 17 are ineligible, as are adult dependents, such as college students and some disabled people claimed as dependents on their relatives' tax returns.
More people are eligible for the second round of stimulus checks than in the first, the IRS added.
"Under the earlier CARES Act, joint returns of couples where only one member of the couple had a Social Security number were generally ineligible for a payment – unless they were a member of the military," the IRS noted. "But this month's new law changes and expands that provision."
Under the new relief bill, the U.S. government will allow mixed-status households of American citizens with undocumented family members to receive stimulus checks that they were denied under the first round of legislation in the spring, and which sparked several lawsuits.