Everyone the IRS still owes a stimulus payment to and how to get it


There are pockets of people who are still owed a stimulus payment from the IRS.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you qualified for a stimulus check as outlined in the CARES Act, the process for you to receive a payment was straightforward. But if your situation didn’t fit neatly into the guidelines, you may have found that working out the requirements for a check — and then requesting the payment — felt like jumping through hoops. It didn’t help that in some cases, the IRS even changed its guidance after sending out some checks.

The IRS has said as of August it had made 160 million payments, many of those sent automatically to eligible taxpayers. But if the IRS didn’t have banking information for you, if you hadn’t filed a tax return in a couple of years or you were incarcerated, trying to work out if and how to qualify often required hunting for answers on the IRS site. 

To help you find your answer quicker, we gathered together everyone who the IRS may still owe money and what you can do to claim your stimulus payment. For many, you have till Nov. 21 to request your payment. Here’s everything that’s going on with the negotiations for a second stimulus check of up to $1,200 per qualified adult (here’s who might not qualify).

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People who normally don’t file taxes 

In September, the IRS started contacting 9 million Americans who may qualify 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, including older adults, retirees, SSDI recipients and individuals with incomes less than $12,200.

The IRS has set a Nov. 21 deadline for nonfilers to claim their payments. After the deadline, you can claim your payment when you file a claim.

People who are missing money for their child dependent

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. 

As with nonfilers, if you’re missing a dependent you can claim it Nov. 21 and receive the payment in December. You can use our stimulus check calculator to get an idea of how much you may be owed.

If you miss the deadline, you can claim the payment  on your 2020 federal tax return in 2021.

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.

People whose checks were mistakenly garnished

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 parents are separated or divorced, only the spouse who owes child support should have their 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’ve not received your check, the IRS said it is working to send out the missing payments.

People who are incarcerated — at least for now

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 recent ruling from a federal judge in California, however, seems to have settled the question — at least for now — and is requiring the IRS to contact those incarcerated can file a claim for a stimulus check. The deadline to file a claim through the mail has passed (it was Nov. 4) those who are incarcerated have till Nov. 21 to  file online using the IRS nonfilers tool.

The IRS has appealed the case.


For some, there are still unclaimed stimulus checks.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Citizens who live abroad, some non-citizens in the US, some in US territories

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 a spouse of a nonresident alien. 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.

Everyone else who used our stimulus check calculator and think all or part of their check is missing

Finally, if after using our stimulus check calculator, you find you may have qualified for a bigger payment than you received, you can check the IRS Get My Payment tool to see if a check is in the works. If the IRS is waiting on information from you before it sends your check, you may still have time to request one this one year.

For everything to know about the first payment, see our guide to the first round of checks. We also have an idea for  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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