How to Claim Unreceived Economic Impact Payments or “Stimulus Checks”

The IRS isn’t sending out stimulus checks any more, but if you can show that you were eligible to receive one when they were, but didn’t, there is still a way to get the money – at least before next tax day. The Recovery Rebate Credit is a refundable tax credit that lets you claim any unreceived Economic Impact Payments (EIPs, or “Stimulus Checks”) on your tax return. And if the credit is larger than what you owe in taxes, you get the money added to your refund.

The part that makes this not as easy as it sounds is that you have to claim the tax credit for the year in which the specific check you are claiming was issued: 2020 for the first two, 2021 for the second. You also have to be able to specify exactly how much money you were eligible to receive, or the IRS won’t issue the credits. The size of the stimulus checks were determined by your income and number of dependents – and of course, you needed to have a valid SSN and not be a dependent yourself that year. The IRS Form 1040 Instructions (for 2020 and 2021, respectively) include a worksheet that lets you work out the math yourself. Finally, you should know that taxes for previous years, whether you are filing them for the first time, or amending what you have already filed before, can’t be filed online. You have to mail them in to the IRS.

If you find this too difficult to do yourself, you can use a reputable tax preparer for help, so long as you are careful with how much they charge. Some VITA sites may be able to help as well, but keep in mind that you will want to check with them soon, as the closer tax day is, the busier they get!