When the IRS could send your next stimulus check, now that the Senate has passed the bill

March 6, 2021 0 By boss

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Stimulus checks are getting closer, but you still want to know when yours will arrive in your hands.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Senate passed the COVID-19 relief stimulus bill on Saturday, setting into motion a definitive course for a third stimulus check. Although the bill isn’t law yet (the House will have to vote on the amended bill again before President Joe Biden can sign it), it does put the check on track for official approval before March 14. In fact, the bill could pass the House for the final time as soon as Tuesday, CNN reported.

The $1,400 payment reduces the upper income limit once again, which means fewer people will be eligible to get more stimulus money than originally thought. These changes could affect not just the equation to determine how much money you could receive, but also when your payment would come — especially if the IRS needs to sort out your situation based on the latest taxes it has on file. Seeing as we’re in the middle of tax season, using 2019 versus 2020 taxes could change the situation for millions of people, including disqualifying many.

There’s also the question of which stimulus payment priority group you’re in — and despite your best efforts, you may not get a choice if your check arrives in the first wave or one of the last. Some people may also find they have to wait months to receive all their stimulus money, if any problems arise, including from the 2019/2020 tax confusion. We’ll explain more below. Meanwhile, here are major differences between the $1,400, $600 and $1,200 checks, and all the money you could get for child care and older adults. This story updates often.

Update: Potential dates you could get a stimulus check

March 14 is the Democrats’ internal deadline to pass the final version of the next stimulus bill, to coincide with the expiration date for federal unemployment insurance. Though the timeline is on track, thanks to extremely long hours of Senate debate, we include two potential dates that Biden could sign the bill, an action that could potentially affect when the IRS could ready new payments.

We include when the first payments could go out according to main delivery methods: direct deposit first, followed by physical checks and EIP cards. The payment schedule below reflects our best guesses, based off the IRS’ timeline for the $600 stimulus check. It could take weeks for the IRS to process every group’s funds, so consider the possible dates below as just a starting point. Any complication could delay your payment.

When could the next stimulus check possibly arrive?

Stimulus check passes Congress Tuesday, March 9 Tuesday, March 9
Stimulus bill signed into law Wednesday, March 10 Friday, March 12
First direct deposit check sent Week of March 17 Week of March 22
First paper checks sent Week of March 24 Week of March 29
First EIP cards sent Week of March 31 Week of April 5
IRS deadline to finish sending checks Dec. 31, 2021 Dec. 31, 2021
Claims for missing stimulus money open Likely 2022 Likely 2022

What are the payment group priorities?

What we learned from the first two checks is that how you get your stimulus money often dictates when you get it. 

  • Direct-deposit recipients: Typically got their stimulus money in the first wave. But both times there were issues involving deposits going to temporary accounts that were rejected by banks. In some cases, these people got paper checks or EIP cards instead, or had to wait for the issue to resolve.
  • Paper checks: This is the payment type the IRS sent out second. This method can take weeks to arrive by mail, but the check can be deposited or cashed right away.
  • EIP cards: This payment type arrives as a prepaid debit card you must activate online to use. The IRS issued EIP cards last, delaying receipt for this recipient group by weeks.

Could your payment group change?

Yes. With the second stimulus checks, the IRS told CNET in January that some people who received a physical check or EIP card the first time may have been paid by the other method the second time around. And, anecdotally, we learned of people who received direct deposit payments the first time finally getting an EIP card in the mail — and not an electronic bank transfer — weeks after the IRS tool said the payment was issued. 


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While you won’t have the final say in how you get your payment, we recommend signing up for direct deposit with the IRS when you submit your 2020 tax return, if you ordinarily file taxes. If you already have an account, make sure your details are correct. We also suggest you try to file your taxes quickly. While you can file an extension to submit your taxes later (you’d still have to pay taxes owed now) whether that will help or hurt you may get a little complicated.

The other payment groups loosely defined (by us) include Social Security beneficiaries who received payments a different way the first time if they’re part of the SSI or SSDI programs, and people with more complex scenarios that could lead to potential issues or holdups receiving their money. People in different child support situations are one example we’ve seen, as are people who are incarcerated and people with complex citizenship scenarios.

Will the IRS have another cutoff date for sending the stimulus checks? We think we know what it is

The Jan. 15 deadline for the second stimulus check approved in December was written into the text of the bill without explanation. Anyone who didn’t receive all or part of their second payment must claim it as part of the IRS’ Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax return to get the funds owed — even if they have nonfiler status and aren’t typically required to file taxes.

The latest Senate form of the bill (PDF) would give the IRS a Dec. 31, 2021 cutoff to complete sending out the third stimulus checks. 

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How you get your second stimulus check could influence how soon your payment arrives.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How could tax season affect stimulus check delivery dates?

Since a third stimulus check is likely to drop in the middle of tax season (taxes are due April 15), the IRS may have to calculate your total based on the most recent tax filing it has. That would be your 2020 taxes if you file early, or 2019 taxes if the check is ready before your tax return is. This could also disqualify some people from getting a third stimulus payment. (Learn more about some of the stimulus check exceptions and catches here.)

If you’re owed money, you might have to wait a year to claim it, until you file your 2021 taxes in 2022, according to the latest proposal (PDF) under consideration. Filing for a tax extension could also change your timeline in a way that could be different if the IRS were to extend the tax due date itself (we haven’t heard anything more about this).

By mid-March, tens of millions of Americans may have already received their tax refunds, which could make it tricky for the IRS to straighten out problems or redact refunds after issuing. 

Tips that could help get you a stimulus check faster

There may be a few things you can do to help speed up receipt of a third payment, assuming the stimulus bill is approved. For example, signing up for direct deposit with your 2020 tax return would put you in the priority category for a third stimulus payment. 

If you’ve moved recently, tell the IRS and USPS. Here are our other suggestions for how people can make it more likely they’ll get their checks faster. Note that there could be some changes to qualifications that may not apply to a possible third stimulus check.

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The first two stimulus checks were nominally sorted by different payment groups, and one had a clear advantage over the others.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Additional stimulus check details for these 6 groups

Stimulus checks aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation. Here are our guides for:

Here’s everything you need to know about stimulus checks, including what to do if you ran into problems with either of the first two payments.

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