Coronavirus and Your Money

What to Do If Your Stimulus Check is Lost, Stolen or Destroyed

If your stimulus check is lost in the mail, or something else happens to it before you get it, you can ask the IRS to trace your payment. Here's how it works.

It's bad enough if a new sweater you ordered on Amazon gets lost in the mail – but you're really going to get mad if the post office loses your $600 stimulus check. What do you do then? Or what happens if your bank never receives your direct deposit stimulus payment from the IRS? Are you going to lose that money?

Fortunately, the IRS has a procedure to help. If your first-round ($1,200) or second-round ($600) stimulus payment is lost, stolen or destroyed, you can ask the IRS to perform a "payment trace" to see if your payment was cashed. In fact, you may need to request a trace in order to eventually get paid (assuming you're eligible for a stimulus check). That's the good news.

But there's some less than thrilling news, too. First, whether or not your check was cashed, the IRS won't reissue your payment. Instead, you'll have to claim the amount you're owed as a "recovery rebate" credit on your 2020 tax return, which means you won't get your stimulus check money right away. Second, as with any government request, there's a healthy list of procedures you must follow. Slip up on one of the steps, and you could find yourself in a bureaucratic black hole. But don't worry. While dealing with the IRS can be intimidating, we'll help you get through the process.

[Stay on top of all the new stimulus relief developments – Sign up for the Kiplinger Today E-Newsletter. It's FREE!]

Who Can Request a Payment Trace

You can track the status of your stimulus check using the IRS's "Get My Payment" portal. If you're getting a stimulus payment, this online tool will let you know how it will be delivered (e.g., paper check or direct deposit) and provide an estimated arrival date.

Also, after it processes your stimulus payment, the IRS will mail you a letter letting you know that a payment was sent to you. The letter is formally known as Notice 1444 for first-round stimulus checks and Notice 1444-B for second-round payments.

You can request a payment trace only if you haven't received your stimulus payment and you:

  • Get an IRS letter (Notice 1444 or 1444-B); or
  • The "Get My Payment" tool shows your payment was issued.

Don't request a payment trace to determine if you're eligible for a payment or to confirm the amount of money you should have received.

When to Request a Payment Trace

If the "Get My Payment" tool or your Notice 1444/1444-B says that your payment was issued as a direct deposit into your bank account, you should first check with your bank before submitting a payment trace request to make sure they didn't get a deposit. But wait at least five days after the estimated delivery date. Otherwise, the bank might not have the necessary information.

If you were scheduled to get a first-round paper stimulus check in the mail, the IRS can't initiate a payment trace unless it has been:

  • Four weeks since the check was mailed to a standard address;
  • Six weeks since the check was mailed if you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office; or
  • Nine weeks since the check was mailed to a foreign address.

For second-round payments, a payment trace isn't allowed until:

  • February 24, 2021, if the check was mailed to a standard address;
  • March 10, 2021, if the check was mailed if you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office; or
  • March 31, 2021, if the check was mailed to a foreign address.

(Note: If you have a foreign address, there may be international service disruptions at the U.S. Postal Service or the foreign country you're in due to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the USPS Service Alerts website and check with your local consulate for more information.)

How to Request a Payment Trace

There are two ways to request a stimulus payment trace:

  • Call the IRS at 800-919-9835; or
  • Mail or fax a completed Form 3911 to the IRS.

Pick only one method (e.g., don't submit Form 3911 if you have already requested a trace by phone). Also remember that you can't request a payment trace before the timeframes described above – the IRS can't process a request until after the appropriate time period has passed.

If you're using Form 3911, make sure you:

  • Write "EIP1" (first-round payment) or "EIP2" (second-round payment) on the top of the form to identify which payment you want to trace;
  • Complete the form answering all refund questions as they relate to your stimulus payment;
  • When completing item 7 under Section 1, check the box for "Individual" as the type of return, enter "2020" as the tax period, and don't write anything for the date filed; and
  • Sign the form (if you file a joint tax return, both spouses must sign the form).

Mail or fax the form to the appropriate address or fax number according to the chart below. Don't send anything other than a Form 3911 to the fax numbers listed.

If you live in...then mail to this address...or fax to...
Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, VermontAndover Internal Revenue Service
310 Lowell St.
Andover, MA 01810
855-253-3175
Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, VirginiaAtlanta Internal Revenue Service
4800 Buford Hwy
Chamblee, GA 30341
855-275-8620
Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, TexasAustin Internal Revenue Service
3651 S Interregional Hwy 35
Austin, TX 78741
855-203-7538
New YorkBrookhaven Internal Revenue Service
1040 Waverly Ave.
Holtsville, NY 11742
855-297-7736
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, WyomingFresno Internal Revenue Service
5045 E Butler Avenue
Fresno, CA 93888
855-332-3068
Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, West VirginiaKansas City Internal Revenue Service
333 W Pershing Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
855-344-9993
Alabama, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, TennesseeMemphis Internal Revenue Service
5333 Getwell Rd.
Memphis, TN 38118
855-580-4749
District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode IslandPhiladelphia Internal Revenue Service
2970 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
855-404-9091
A foreign country, U.S. possession or territory, or use an APO or FPO address, or file Form 2555 or 4563, or are a dual-status alien.Austin Internal Revenue Service
3651 S Interregional Hwy 35
Austin, TX 78741
855-203-7538

What the IRS Will Do

You'll generally receive a response about six weeks after the IRS receives your request for a payment trace (there could be delays due to limited IRS staffing). They will process your claim for a missing payment in one of two ways. If the check was not cashed, the IRS will reverse your payment. They'll send you a notice, too. If the original check shows up later, you need to return it as soon as possible. You will then need to claim the "recovery rebate" credit on your 2020 tax return to receive your payment (assuming you're eligible for the credit).

If the check was cashed, the U.S. Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send you a claim package that includes a copy of the cashed check. Follow the instructions in the packet. The bureau will review your claim and the signature on the canceled check before determining whether the payment can be reversed. If it is reversed, you will need to claim the "recovery rebate" credit on your 2020 return to get your money.

It's very important that you submit a payment trace request as outlined above. Since the payment was issued to you, you could be deemed ineligible for the "recovery rebate" credit if you don't request a trace.

Also, if you're filing your 2020 tax return before your payment trace is complete, don't include the payment amount on line 16 or 19 of the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet (the worksheet is in the instructions for Form 1040). You may receive a notice saying your recovery rebate credit was changed, but an adjustment will be made after the trace is complete and it's determined your payment hasn't been cashed. In that case, you won't need to take any additional action to receive the credit.

Most Popular

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer
Coronavirus and Your Money

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer

The IRS has an online tool that lets you track the status of your stimulus checks.
February 19, 2021
The Current Plan for $1,400 Checks
Coronavirus and Your Money

The Current Plan for $1,400 Checks

Here's what you need to know about the stimulus check plan currently being considered in Congress for President Biden's COVID-relief package.
February 18, 2021
Want More Tax-Free Retirement Income? One Man’s Whole Life Decision
life insurance

Want More Tax-Free Retirement Income? One Man’s Whole Life Decision

Whole life insurance might not be something that’s on your retirement planning radar, but for this client, here’s how it served his need to control ta…
February 23, 2021

Recommended

33 States with No Estate Taxes or Inheritance Taxes
retirement

33 States with No Estate Taxes or Inheritance Taxes

Even with the federal exemption from death taxes raised, retirees should pay more attention to estate taxes and inheritance taxes levied by states.
February 24, 2021
Taxes in Retirement: How All 50 States Tax Retirees
Tax Breaks

Taxes in Retirement: How All 50 States Tax Retirees

We rated every state, plus Washington, D.C. on how retirees are taxed. We considered taxes on Social Security and other retirement income, tax exempti…
February 23, 2021
Tax Day 2021: When's the Last Day to File Taxes?
tax deadline

Tax Day 2021: When's the Last Day to File Taxes?

Many people are wondering if Tax Day will be pushed back again this year because of the pandemic. Here's what we know so far.
February 23, 2021
Tax Tip: Reporting a 2020 RMD From an IRA That You Later Returned
Coronavirus and Your Money

Tax Tip: Reporting a 2020 RMD From an IRA That You Later Returned

If you paid back a "required minimum distribution" from an IRA last year, you still have to report the payout on your 2020 tax return.
February 23, 2021