You can still get your first stimulus check even if you missed the deadline. What to do

December 6, 2020 0 By boss



Missed the deadline to claim your stimulus money in 2020? You still have an option left.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If the IRS still owes you all or part of your 2020 economic stimulus check, it’s too late to request the money this year. The deadline to register a claim was Nov. 21 — the agency is using the rest of the year to wrap up delivery for the first check, including missing payments for households and $500 per child dependent.

But as long as you’re well and truly qualified for a payment, you can still claim the outstanding money you’re owed in early 2021. This check — which the IRS is calling a “Recovery Rebate Credit” — is separate from a potential second stimulus check that Congress could approve this month or early in 2021 as part of another economic stimulus package.

(If another $1,200 stimulus check is approved as a part of current or future stimulus negotiations, make sure you know your priority group.)

We outline who may qualify for more money in the first round and who might not be eligible for a second payment, if one happens — read on for more information. This story was updated recently.

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How to file a claim for missing stimulus money in 2021

If you belong to one of the groups below, or tried estimating your total stimulus payment and think the IRS didn’t send your check in full, you have another chance to claim your stimulus check money, which the IRS is calling a Recovery Rebate Credit. You’ll be able to file in 2021 tax season; if the typical schedule holds, your federal tax return will be due April 15, though in 2020, the IRS extended the deadline to July 15 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the IRS doesn’t have specific instructions yet for every personal situation (more on these below), the agency does say that people who files taxes can use 2020 Form 1040 or 1040SR to claim a catch-up payment. If you received a partial payment, you’ll need the IRS’ calculated amount from the letter called Notice 1444 Your Economic Impact Payment when you file in 2021.

If you don’t normally file a federal tax return, do this

Starting in September, the IRS sent letters to 9 million Americans who may have qualified for a payment but perhaps didn’t know they needed to register to claim it. This group — which the IRS categorizes as “nonfilers” — includes people who didn’t file a tax return in 2018 or 2019, such as older adults, retirees, SSDI recipients and individuals with incomes less than $12,200. Those in this group needed to file a claim using the Non-Filers tool by Nov. 21. The IRS said if you missed the deadline you can claim the payment, which, again, it calls a Recovery Rebate Credit, in 2021 when you file a 2020 federal income tax return:  

When you file a 2020 Form 1040 or 1040SR you may be eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit. Save your IRS letter – Notice 1444 Your Economic Impact Payment – with your 2020 tax records. You’ll need the amount of the payment in the letter when you file in 2021.

If you’re missing a payment for a dependent child

Under the CARES Act, each qualifying child dependent — those 16 years and younger — was eligible for a $500 check. But some people’s payments were short $500 for each eligible dependent. 

If you claimed it by Nov. 21, you could receive the payment in December. You can use our stimulus check calculator to get an idea of how much you may be owed.

As with the nonfilers, if you missed the deadline, the IRS said you can claim the payment on your 2020 federal tax return in 2021, by filing a 2020 Form 1040 or 1040SR.

Note that in a few cases, where parents are separated or divorced and share joint custody of a dependent, each parent can get a $500 payment per eligible child, so you may not even be aware you’re eligible for the payment to begin with.

If your check was garnished by mistake, here’s what to do

Although there are a few cases where the federal government or a debt collector could seize your payment to cover an outstanding debt, in general, if you qualify for a check, it’s yours to spend or save as you want. One area where the federal government can garnish a check is for overdue child support. However, if the parents are separated or divorced, only the spouse who owes child support should have the check seized. 

According to the IRS, the parent who does not owe child support should receive their portion of the payment without having to take action. If you haven’t received your check, the IRS said it is working to send out the missing payments. While you don’t have much recourse to appeal IRS decisions, you can also try the Non-Filers tool to create a record of your claim.

If you used our stimulus check calculator and believe your check amount is wrong

Finally, if you use our stimulus check calculator and find you may have qualified for a larger payment than you received, you can use the IRS Get My Payment tool to see if a check is in the works. If the IRS is waiting on information from you it needs to make your payment, you might still be able to claim your money next year. Otherwise, you will need to wait till 2021.


There are still unclaimed stimulus checks.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re a US citizen abroad, in US territories or not a citizen 

The IRS has rules that set the payment eligibility guidelines for US citizens who live abroad and non-US citizens who work in the US — along with spouses of nonresident aliens. We have a guide that walks through the various eligibility scenarios along with what to do if you qualify but didn’t get a check.

People in jail or prison qualify by court order

Since April, when it first started sending payments, the IRS has gone back and forth on whether those who are in US jails and prisons qualify for a stimulus check.

A ruling this fall from a federal judge in California, however, seemed to have settled the question for now and required the IRS to contact those incarcerated who can file a claim for a stimulus check. The deadline to file a claim this year — either through the mail or online — has passed. As with others who are missing a payment, the IRS said if you do not receive a payment by Dec. 31 you may be able to claim it in 2021 by filing a 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

For everything to know about the first payment, see our guide to the first round of checks. We also have an idea of how quickly the IRS could send out the second round of payments if another stimulus payment is approved and what other benefits you might expect in another economic relief package.


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