If your $1,200 federal COVID-19 stimulus payment has been deposited into your bank account by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), consider yourself one of the lucky ones. An IRS spokesman told PYMNTS that only about 80 million payouts – about half of the expected total – had been issued as of last Friday (April 17).
That leaves many taxpayers waiting, but the spokesman couldn’t provide a schedule of when payments will be issued. All he could say is that the IRS will direct-deposit the money or mail checks through the spring and summer.
The assistance was made possible by the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted by Congress in late March. Under the legislation, most individual taxpayers will get $1,200 plus $500 for each dependent child. (Some high earners don’t qualify.)
However, delays have plagued the aid.
IRS figures show that nearly 156 million Americans filed taxes last year, including about 89 percent (138 million) who filed electronically. Many included bank routing numbers for electronic refunds, which the IRS is now using to direct-deposit stimulus checks to those who qualify.
But by our count, that leaves about 58 million electronic filers who are still waiting for the direct deposit of their stimulus money, along with perhaps another 18 million people who will ultimately get the money by paper check.
For example, some users have received frustrating error messages such as: “According to information that we have on file, we cannot determine your eligibility for a payment at this time. … This may occur for a variety of reasons, for example, if you didn’t file either a 2018 or 2019 tax return or you recently filed and the return has not been fully processed.”
The biggest holdup appears to involve those who didn’t file a 2018 or 2019 tax return electronically, or who failed to provide direct deposit information on the IRS’ portal. Without a way to direct-deposit the money, the IRS acknowledged it could take up to four months for a paper check to arrive at recipients’ addresses.
By contrast, among the first to receive payouts on April 15 were taxpayers who e-filed their 2018 or 2019 returns and had given the agency direct deposit information.
Would an End to Paper Checks Solve the Problem?
CEO Drew Edwards of Ingo Money told PYMNTS recently that such problems should boost the adoption of digital payments over checks.
“The financial challenges stemming from COVID-19 put into perspective the need for a better, modern disbursement solution,” Edwards said. “What is likely to change after the pandemic is faster adoption of instant digital disbursement solutions that better prepare them to facilitate disbursements in real time [and] on demand, especially in times of great need.”