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Second stimulus check: IRS has 12 days to send out


For some, receiving a second stimulus check before Jan. 15 will be a race against the clock.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Here’s the good news. The IRS and Treasury have already started sending out your second stimulus check, moving much more swiftly than with the first round of stimulus checks. That means millions of payments of up to $600 per person may have already gone out through direct deposit, physical checks in the mail and EIP cards. (Here’s how to calculate how much stimulus money you could get.)

Here’s the bad news. The reason for the rush is a self-imposed Jan. 15 cutoff to send the second stimulus check, which leaves just 12 days from today, and only 17 days from the Dec. 29 date the first payment went out to process potentially over 100 million payments. So when will your second stimulus check arrive, and what happens if it doesn’t make the deadline? That has a lot to do with where you fall in line in your payment group. If it misses the cutoff, you could be waiting awhile.

We’ll explain more about the IRS deadline, what you need to know about direct deposit, how to track a paper stimulus check or EIP card to your mailbox and what happens if you don’t receive your second stimulus check before Jan. 15. While you’re here, this is what we know about a possible third stimulus check. This story was updated with additional details.

Why do second stimulus payments stop after Jan. 15?

The language of the $900 billion stimulus bill has set Jan. 15 as the cutoff date to send stimulus payments. If you don’t receive your full second stimulus check money by then, you will need to claim all or part of the missing amount when you file your federal tax returns in 2021 through the IRS’ Recovery Rebate Credit. You’ll also be able to claim any money the IRS still owes you from the first round of checks.

People who receive their stimulus payment through direct deposit are less likely to be affected. But if there’s any issue or holdup with any of the three payment methods, it means you’ll have to wait until you file a claim — and take the extra step to do so.

Tying the delivery of a second stimulus check to the 2020 tax return will almost certainly delay the payment for many people, since a wide variance in circumstances will cause some to file taxes as early as January and others as late as April 15, or even later if they need to request an extension. It also isn’t clear how quickly the IRS would process payments made through the Recovery Rebate Credit.

Now playing: Watch this: Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


Direct deposit payments will continue throughout the week

The IRS released the very first direct deposit payments on Dec. 29, saying that the payments will carry on this week. Direct deposits in your bank account may be marked as “pending or “provisional” until Jan. 4, the IRS has said. 

While eligible individuals don’t need to do anything to receive the second payment — providing the IRS already has your information on file — you also can’t do much to influence getting a direct deposit over a mailed check. For example, you can’t register a new direct deposit account with the IRS or correct any banking information you have on file, for example, if you closed an account. That could potentially change in the upcoming week, but we don’t know for sure.

Paper stimulus checks and EIP cards are in the mail. Some could miss the deadline

If the IRS doesn’t have your current direct deposit information on file, it will send the payment as a check or EIP debit card in the mail — they began Dec. 30. It isn’t clear if the IRS has time to process all the tens of millions of payments before Jan. 15. The IRS was able to process between 5 and 7 million a week with the first stimulus check, according to a government report from June.

It may be that some payments won’t make the Jan. 15 deadline. Here’s how you can track your second stimulus check to your mailbox, for free, to set your expectations and to help prevent you from accidentally throwing it away.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

What’s the story with EIP cards?

The IRS said that to speed delivery of the payments, it will send make some payments using an Economic Impact Payment prepaid debit card and notes that some people who received a paper check last time might receive a debit card this time, and some people who received a debit card last time may receive a paper check.

The IRS warns that those who are eligible but don’t receive a direct deposit should watch their mail for a check or EIP debit card. The debit cards will arrive in a white envelope that displays the US Department of the Treasury seal, the IRS said.

Can I track my second stimulus check?

The IRS said it is updating its online Get My Payment tracking tool for the second round of payments and anticipates those who qualify for a check will be able to see the status of both the first and second payments in a few days, after the portal is updated. The portal is available in English and Spanish.

How long could I have to wait to get my new payment? It depends

People who will receive their second stimulus check in the mail — either as a paper check or a prepaid debit card — should look for a payment anytime from now through Jan. 15. According to the Treasury, 22% of the payments as of last summer were made by paper checks and another 3% by prepaid debit cards

After Jan. 15, you will have to claim any money the IRS owes you with your tax filing in 2021. That could further delay your stimulus check, since the timing would depend on:

  • When you file your 2020 taxes — the deadline could be April 15, unless you file for an extension.
  • How long it takes the IRS to process your tax return, which may also include your second stimulus check.
  • If there are any complications that arise in your specific scenario that could further delay your check.

We’ll keep our eye on the situation, which is constantly evolving. Here’s how to calculate your estimated total now for a $600 per person maximum.


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