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If your second stimulus check never arrived, you may need to request a Payment Trace from the IRS.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What happens if your second stimulus check didn’t arrive? How do you know when to be patient and wait for Phase 2 of the stimulus money delivery, and when to reach out to the IRS for help? Here, we’ll focus on people who are eligible for a second stimulus payment and are reporting that their payments of up to $600 per person haven’t yet arrived — or arrived with money for qualified dependents missing. An IRS error also delayed payments for millions of people

Many people will have to file for that missing stimulus money from either the first or second round of checks on their tax returns this year, as a Recovery Rebate Credit (instructions here). But others will need to contact the IRS to request something called a Payment Trace and track down those funds. (You can use our calculator to estimate the amount of money you should have received in your check.) 

We explain what a Payment Trace is and the two cases when you should request one instead of using the Recovery Rebate Credit. CNET also has guides on stimulus checks as they relate to older adultsyoung adultsSSI and SSDI recipientsnon-US citizens and those living abroad, and those who pay or receive child support. And here’s what we know so far about a third stimulus check, including all the ways it could bring you more money and how much your household could get

Case 1: The IRS Get My Payment app said your check was sent, but you never got it 

If your second stimulus check is missing, you should first go to the free IRS online payment tracking tool called Get My Payment to find out its status. We have full instructions on how to use the Get My Payment tool and the different messages you might see here. But generally, the IRS updates the tool once a day, and you’ll need to plug in your Social Security Number of Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, date of birth, street address and ZIP or postal code. 

The portal will show you your payment status, if your check has been scheduled to send, and the payment method (direct deposit or by mail) and date. You might also see a different message or an error.


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You’ll need to request a Payment Trace if the Get May Payment portal shows that your payment was issued, but you haven’t received it within these timeframes: 

  • 5 days since the deposit date in Get my Payment and your bank says they haven’t received it
  • 4 weeks since it was mailed by check to a standard address
  • 6 weeks since it was mailed and you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office
  • 9 weeks since it was mailed and you have a foreign address

Case 2: You received a letter from the IRS confirming your payment, but the money never appeared 

About 15 days after the IRS sends your second stimulus check (by either direct depositpaper check or EIP card ), you should get a letter from the agency confirming your payment and giving you a way to get in touch to report any problems. If you received this letter — also called Notice 1444 Your Economic Impact Payment — but you never received your payment, you’ll need to request a Payment Trace. Make sure you keep the letter, as you’ll need the information in to file your claim. 

How to request a payment trace with the IRS

To request a Payment Trace, call the IRS at 800-919-9835 or mail or fax a completed Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund. Find out where to mail or fax that form for your state on the IRS website. 

To complete From 3911, the IRS provides the following instructions: 

  1. Write “EIP” on the top of the form (EIP stands for Economic Impact Payment)
  2. Complete the form answering all refund questions as they relate to your payment
  3. When completing item 7 under Section 1:
  • Check the box for “Individual” as the Type of return.
  • Enter “2020” as the Tax Period.
  • Do not write anything for the Date Filed.
  • Sign the form. If you file married filing joint, both spouses must sign the form.

You should not mail Form 3911 if you’ve already requested a trace by phone. And you should not request a Payment Trace to determine if you were eligible to get a check, or to confirm the amount you should have received, the IRS said. 

10-2021-cash-money-stimulus-bill-600-dollars-check-americans-congress-signed-law-direct-deposit-mail

Track down your first or second stimulus check now.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How will the IRS process your Payment Trace request? 

The IRS will do the following to process your claim, according to its website: 

  • If you didn’t cash the check, the IRS will issue you a replacement. If you discover the original check among your belongings, you’re expected to return it as soon as possible.
  • If you did cash the refund check, expect a claim package from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which will include a copy of the cashed check. Then, follow the included instructions. The Bureau will review your claim and the signature on the canceled check before deciding if they’ll issue a replacement. This is presumably to guard against stimulus check fraud.

When will you get your missing stimulus money?

You should get a response from the IRS about six weeks after the agency receives your request for a Payment Trace, according to its website. However, this could be delayed due to limited staffing. 

For more on stimulus checks, check out President-elect Joe Biden’s plans for a $1,400 third stimulus check, and all the stimulus checks facts and details to know.



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