Missing, Unclaimed, and Rejected Stimulus Payments

Here’s what to do if you never received your stimulus payment or the IRS held your refund for your Recovery Rebate Credit.

What to Do if You Never Received Your Stimulus Payment

Take these steps if you never received your stimulus payment.

Did you file a 2020 or 2021 tax return?

If you didn’t automatically get your stimulus payment or get less than the full amount you were entitled to, you needed to file a 2020 or 2021 tax return and claim the Recovery Rebate Credit. The first two payments went on 2020, and the final payment went on 2021.

Even if you don’t normally have to file a tax return, filing a tax return is the only way to claim your stimulus payment.

If you filed your tax return without claiming the stimulus payment, you’ll need to file an amended tax return.

Did the IRS adjust your refund because they say you received the stimulus payment when you didn’t?

I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people who never got their payment, claimed it on their tax return, and the IRS reduced their refund saying they already got their payment. To resolve this:

  1. Check your online IRS account to see what payments they say you got and when.
  2. Check your bank statements to make sure you didn’t get the payment.
  3. If you got a notice in the mail, respond to it saying that you never received the payment and you want a payment trace. A payment trace is when the IRS figures out what happened to your payment.

It is really hard to get someone on the IRS on the phone right now. Millions of people are having similar problems. The only thing you can do is keep calling.

Did you claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when you already got your stimulus payment?

The Recovery Rebate Credit is the same as the stimulus payment. It’s only for people who didn’t get a payment or didn’t get the full amount they qualified for.

If you already got your full payment and claimed the Recovery Rebate Credit, the IRS will reduce your tax refund or send you a bill for additional taxes. Check their math, but they’re correct if you claimed the same money twice.

If you made this mistake and they’re charging you interest and penalties, you may be able to get the interest and penalties waived by sending the IRS a letter.

Did you get a notice from the IRS saying there was an issue with your Recovery Rebate Credit?

Depending on the exact issue, you may have gotten a Notice CP10, CP11, CP12, CP13, CP16, CP23, CP24, or CP25.

Some of these notices cover the issues above — you already got your payment or the IRS thinks you already got it. See above.

Some of these notices say you weren’t eligible or you weren’t eligible for as much as you claimed. Review the requirements for claiming the credit (see below) to see if the IRS is right. If you still think you’re eligible, call the phone number on your notice.

Are you still waiting for your tax refund?

The IRS is processing tax refunds very slowly. If you made a mistake or they flagged your return to manually check it it, it may take a while to get your refund.

If you submitted your tax return, it’s processing, and the IRS hasn’t requested information from you, there’s nothing you can do to speed up your tax refund.

You can see more about how long it will take to get your refund and what you can do here.

Note: If you have a tax debt, the CARES Act prohibits the IRS from seizing stimulus checks to cover tax debts under the Treasury Offset Program. However, the IRS interpreted this as not applying to the Recovery Rebate Credit and is withholding the credit from people who have other tax debts.

The following information is from when the IRS originally sent the payments and notices about them. You may find it useful if you need to figure out whether you were eligible, how much you should have gotten, or when the payments went out.

What is IRS Notice 1444-A, Notice 1444-B, or Notice 1444-C?

  • Notice 1444 is a special Internal Revenue Service notice to inform you that the IRS issued your coronavirus stimulus payment. If it says Notice 1444 (EN-SP), that means the notice they sent to you is in English and Spanish.
  • Notice 1444-B is the notice for the second payment from December 2020 or January 2021. The only difference is that the B means it’s for the second payment. Without the B is for the first payment.
  • Notice 1444-C is the notice for the third payment which started going out in March 2021. The C just means that it’s the third payment.

Each notice is supposed to arrive within 15 days of your payment. With delays at the IRS, USPS, and other federal government agencies due to COVID-19, delivery times have not been consistent.

Do you need Notice 1444 or 1444-B to file your 2020 tax return?

The purpose of Notice 1444 is to help you to accurately file your 2020 federal tax return. When tax software or an accountant asks for your Form 1444 to report any payment, it’s to check whether you received the relief payments and how much you got. If you don’t have your Notice 1444 but do know how much you received, your tax return won’t be inaccurate if you enter the amount that you received.

Keep all information that you do have such as the cover letter for your check or debit card. If you received a direct deposit, save that bank statement.

The IRS knows how much you received since they processed the payments. You shouldn’t have to worry about them challenging the amount you entered if you entered it correctly. However, there is a chance that information may not match up in their system. For example, if you never received a payment they sent or if you had changes in your eligible dependents. Save your records in case of an audit just like you would save any other tax records.

From the comments, it looks some like some tax preparers are refusing to file your return without the notice. I have not seen any guidance specifically requiring it, and it appears that they are being overly cautions regarding general IRS due diligence requirements. This is a conversation you need to have with your tax preparer.

Do you need Notice 1444-C to file your 2021 tax return?

See above. Just like 1444 and 1444-B, you don’t really need it but your accountant might ask for it. You will need to keep track of how much you received.

How else can I verify the amount I already received?

If you lost or didn’t get your notice, didn’t save the letter that came from your check, or don’t have the bank statement with your stimulus payment, you can still find your payment amount.

  1. Go to the IRS website
  2. Click View Your Account
  3. Click Tax Record (Transcript)
  4. Follow the steps to request your 2020 tax transcript which will have your stimulus payment

Note that transcripts can take several weeks to update. However, by this point, your first and second payments should be showing. The third payment will not appear on 2020 and may later appear on 2021 once the IRS processes are finalized.

Why does the IRS send Notice 1444?

The purpose of tax form 1444 is to confirm you received your stimulus payment information in case it went to the wrong bank account or got lost in the mail. It also explains the amount you received and how that’s calculated so you can check for errors.

Where does the IRS send Notice 1444?

The IRS mails Notice 1444 to the recipient’s last known address within 15 days of payment. This is almost always the address you used on the last income tax return you filed.

If you move, the IRS does have a form to submit your address change. However, most people don’t even know this exists. The IRS just gets their new address when they file their first tax return from their new home.

Do you need to respond to Notice 1444?

If you received your coronavirus stimulus payment in the correct amount, there is no need to respond. If you received the wrong amount or didn’t receive your payment, follow the instructions in the notice. Try to avoid calling the phone number unless necessary to avoid having to wait for hours on hold.

What if I didn’t get my 1444 Notice or need a replacement?

The IRS is sending out Letter 6475 in January and February of 2022 to remind people of the Economic Impact Payments they received. This letter should match the information from Notice 1444-C.

The notices are mainly a confirmation of your relief payment. You don’t need the notices or letter to file your tax return if you know how much you received. However, if you do need the notice for your records, you can call the IRS Economic Impact Payment hotline at 1-800-919-9835.

How much are the COVID-19 stimulus checks?

  • The first payment was for $1,200 per adult and $500 for dependents up to age 16.
  • The second stimulus check was $600 per person. That includes $600 per dependent under 17.
  • The third payment is for $1,400 per person including dependents.

You get less if you made too much.

The above numbers assume you made less than $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a married couple.

How do the first and second payment reduce based on your income?

If you made more than those amounts, your maximum check gets reduced by $5 for every $100 you were over. You hit a $0 payment at an income of $87,000 for individuals and $174,000 for joint filers.

How does the third payment reduce based on your income?

For the third payment, you still get the full amount if you made up to $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a joint filer. However, the payment phases out more quickly. If you made at least $80,000 or $160,000, you get zero.

Your COVID-19 relief payment is estimated based on your last tax return.

  • The size of your first check depended on your 2018 or 2019 tax return. This depended on whether you had filed for 2019 or the IRS had processed it by the time checks were issued.
  • The second payments appear to have been based only on 2019 tax returns. If you only filed for 2018 or your 2019 tax return wasn’t processed yet, you may need to claim the second payment on your 2020 tax return.
  • The third payments in 2021 were mostly based on 2019 tax returns since they went out early in tax season when most people hadn’t filed for 2020 yet.

Is someone who died during 2020 or 2021 eligible for the payment?

From the IRS instructions for Line 30 of Form 1040:

If you are preparing a return for someone who died in 2021, if that per- son was otherwise eligible to receive the RRC, you can claim the RRC for that person on their return.

These were the instructions from 2020:

Generally, you are eligible to claim the recovery rebate credit if in 2020 you were a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien, weren’t a dependent of another taxpayer, and have a valid social security number. This includes someone who died in 2020, if you are preparing a return for that person. Use the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet to figure the credit, if any, you can claim.

Is the child tax credit part of the stimulus?

Yes and no. It depends on what you mean. Having qualifying children could increase your stimulus payment. There is also a separate child tax credit.

As part of the overall COVID relief package, Congress made the existing child tax credit bigger and allowed families to receive part of the credit early. So the child tax credit was part of the stimulus efforts, but it’s a different stimulus than the three economic impact payments.

What if your income changed?

If your 2020 income goes down, you may be eligible for more money when you file your 2020 tax return. You may be eligible if you had a life change that meant you are eligible based on your 2020 tax return but weren’t eligible based on 2019 or 2018.

If your 2020 income went up, you won’t have to return your economic impact payment.

The same thing applies for the 2021 payment and your 2021 tax return.

How do you get the additional funds if you got less than the full stimulus amount for the first and second payment?

Eligible filers can claim an additional credit on your 2020 tax return to make up the difference. This is called the Recovery Rebate Credit.

The Recovery Rebate Credit is a refundable credit. If you owe $0 in taxes and get a $600 credit, you will get a $600 refund. If you owe taxes, the taxes get subtracted. If you’re already getting a refund, your refund will be bigger.

How do you get the additional funds if you got less than the full stimulus amount for the third payment?

The third payment is also the Recovery Rebate Credit but is for tax year 2021. You can claim it on your 2021 tax return.

What if you didn’t file a tax return in 2018, 2019, or 2020?

  • If you should have filed a tax return and didn’t, you will need to file a 2020 or 2021 tax return for the year you’re claiming the credit. You will also want to catch up on your missed tax returns to avoid other penalties for not filing.
  • If you don’t need to file a tax return and receive Social Security or Railroad retirement benefits, the IRS will automatically get your information from the Social Security Administration or Railroad Retirement Board. However, the IRS won’t know if you have dependents and are eligible for the $500 per dependent. So if you believe you’re owed more money, you can file a tax return.
  • If you have a problem and can’t file either 2018, 2019, or 2020 without in-person assistance, you will not be able to claim your check immediately but can get it through the end of 2020 or 2021 after you file.
  • If you just had a baby (who wasn’t on your last tax return), you may be eligible to claim the dependent payment for your baby. Their birthday doesn’t matter because it’s based on the tax year. A baby born on December 31, 2020 could be eligible for both 2020 payments. A baby born on December 31, 2021 could be eligible for the 2021 payment.

If you otherwise wouldn’t have needed to file a tax return, this doesn’t mean that you are going to owe other taxes if you do file. Normally, you wouldn’t need to file because you wouldn’t owe the government money and the government wouldn’t owe you money. Since the government owes you money in the form of a tax credit, you need to file a tax return to claim it.

How do you get your stimulus payment?

The IRS is responsible for issuing payments.

  • If you got a refund via direct deposit, the IRS should issue your refund to the same bank account.
  • If you paid your taxes using bank payment on the IRS website, the IRS should issue your refund to the same bank account.
  • If you paid by check, debit card, credit card, or some other third-party service, the IRS should issue a paper check to the address on your tax return.
  • Most other payments will go by check. Some payments have gone out on a prepaid debit card instead.
  • If you closed your bank account, there is no way to update your bank account information. The IRS should mail you a check after your payment gets returned for your bank account being closed.
  • If you moved, the IRS will continue to use the address on your last tax return unless you filed an IRS change of address Form 8822.

What if I didn’t get my second payment until 2021?

The second payment is still a 2020 tax credit regardless of whether you received it before the end of 2020 or in 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if I did not receive Notice 1444 or lost it?

If you know the amount you received, you don’t need your notice to file your tax return. Otherwise, you’ll have to call the IRS.

What is Notice 1444-A?

This was the notice for the first stimulus payment. Since it was the first one and the IRS didn’t know they’d be sending more, it just said 1444 without the A.

Do I need notice number 1444-C?

This was the notice for the third stimulus payment at the start of 2021. To file your 2021 taxes, you need to know how much you received. You don’t necessarily need the notice.

Is the stimulus payment income?

The stimulus payment is not income. It is a federal tax credit.

Can the IRS hold stimulus payments to cover tax debts?

Unlike other tax refunds, the IRS will not apply your coronavirus relief payment to a tax debt from a prior year. You should receive the full amount.


Notice 1444 is a confirmation of your stimulus payment. If you never got your payment or ended up qualifying for a higher amount, you can claim it on your tax return. If you lost your notice or didn’t get it, you don’t really need it as long as you know how much you received. If you do need it, you can call the IRS.

If you have more questions, start a chat with a tax expert now. If you’re ready to file your tax return, check out your tax filing software options.