At the 11th hour, the IRS announced a deadline extension for the nine million Americans who haven’t received their stimulus payments to request their checks.
The new deadline will be Nov. 21 (it was previously Oct. 15) for qualifying people who don’t file taxes and who haven’t already gotten an Economic Impact Payment. The announcement comes while Americans watch ongoing negotiations for a second stimulus package volley between Democrat and Republican lawmakers as Election Day approaches.
The reason for this extension? A grim September report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ accountability arm, said that despite measures taken by the IRS and the Treasury, millions of Americans still haven’t claimed their stimulus money.
Although the IRS took action in June to address several of the GAO’s recommendations, these actions weren’t well-communicated to potential recipients, many of whom may have no idea they qualify for a check, the GAO report said.
The report says that the lack of “such information could hinder outreach efforts and place potentially millions of individuals at risk of missing their payment.”
The CARES Act authorized direct payments of up to $1,200 per adult and up to $500 per qualifying child. Most people who filed income tax returns for 2018 or 2019 received their payments this spring because their payment was based on their most recent tax return.
But non-filers—which make up the majority of the remaining potential recipients—must register for a payment through the IRS. Potentially eligible non-filers include those earning $12,200 or less annually, and people who are unhoused. These people may have assumed they weren’t eligible to receive a payment because they didn’t pay federal income taxes—or may simply have never heard about the payments.
The GAO report says that the IRS and Treasury should identify these Americans, and shore up their outreach.
As part of this effort, the IRS mailed letters to potential recipients to remind them to claim their payments by the original Oct. 15 deadline. A copy of the letter is available online via the IRS to help recipients distinguish it from a potential fraud. The letters were sent to those who hadn’t filed returns in 2018 or 2019, but may be eligible to get a payment. The letters are written in both English and Spanish.
Extension is Final Chance to Request a Stimulus Payment Before 2020 Tax Season Begins
At any time up to and including Nov. 21, you can visit the IRS Economic Impact Payments portal to enter your non-filer payment information. If you’re eligible for a payment, you can choose to receive it by direct deposit or a mailed check.
Once the Nov. 21 deadline passes, you’ll have to file a federal income tax return in order to claim any stimulus funds to which you are entitled. If you were supposed to file a federal income tax return in 2019 but have not done so, you can file a tax return electronically (and most likely for free) to expedite your eligibility determination. But keep in mind that you may be responsible for late fees or penalties if you owe taxes for 2019.
If you aren’t required to file a federal income tax return and you miss the Nov. 21 deadline, you may choose to file a 2020 tax return next spring to potentially claim a tax credit.
“The IRS is deeply involved in processing and programming that overlaps filing seasons. Any further extension beyond November would adversely impact our work on the 2020 and 2021 filing seasons,” IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement Monday. The IRS has issued about 160 million Economic Impact Payments since distribution began in April, the agency has reported.
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