March 6, 2021
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Still missing your stimulus check? Here’s how and when to start an IRS payment trace


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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

Will your second stimulus check arrive in the mail today? Or it is possible it was never sent in the first place? If you’ve been watching for another payment and it hasn’t arrived, you may be wondering: Should I wait to claim the money later this year, or should I reach out to the IRS for help? 

If you’re eligible for a second stimulus payment, but your check of up to $600 per person is still unaccounted for, you may need to file a claim on your tax return next month as a Recovery Rebate Credit (here’s how). It’s also possible you’ll 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.) 

Below, we’ll explain what a Payment Trace is and the two scenarios in which you may need to request one to find your absent stimulus check, 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, when it could get approved and how much money your household could get

Scenario 1: The IRS Get My Payment app says your money was sent, but you’re still waiting for 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 or 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

Scenario 2: You received a letter from the IRS verifying your payment, but you never received the money

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 to file your claim. 

How to begin 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. 

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Track down your first or second stimulus check now.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What does the IRS do to process a Payment Trace claim? 

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 you could expect to receive 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 Joe Biden’s plans for a $1,400 third stimulus check, and all the stimulus checks facts and details to know. Plus, here are three good reasons to set up direct deposit with the IRS.



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