Coronavirus Relief Resources: Economic Impact Payments
Below are answers to the most common questions I hear from Americans abroad. For more information, visit the IRS Economic Impact Payment Information Center.
How much money will I get?
To find out how much you were eligible to receive from the first payment in 2020, fill out your information in the calculator below. The second EIP stimulus payments went out around January 4, 20201. The Washington Post has a good calculator HERE.
(It may take a minute to load.)
Still waiting for your refund?
If you have already established that you are eligible, but you did not yet get a refund, check your status HERE. The status can change. For example, if your status previously said your check was issued May 1 or May 15 and mailed to a foreign address, it may have been returned to the IRS. Before re-issuing the check, the IRS may give you a chance to enter your US bank information to receive a direct deposit. See the video for a walk-through on how to use the system.
What do I need to do to get the money?
If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, or you receive US social security, no action is required in most cases. If you received a refund by direct deposit on your last US tax return, you will also receive your "EIP" by direct deposit. If you did not get a refund, you will receive a check or debit card (in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services") to the address on your last tax return. The IRS will not use the bank information you gave your accountant in order to PAY tax. Nor will they use direct deposit information from a year prior to 2018.
How can I get a direct deposit?
If you did not receive a refund by direct deposit on your last US tax return, you are supposed to be able to input your US bank information via this IRS website. This can be used for US bank accounts only. You should also be able to use this site to check the status of your refund. If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return with Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) under $80,000, your check or debit card should have been mailed by June 19. In this case, it is too late to request a direct deposit.
Why did I have a letter without a check?
Many people received letters weeks before the check or debit card, or the other way around. The letter comes separately from the money. Even if your account online says a check was sent, you may receive a debit card in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services."
Error: The information you have entered does not match our records. Please try again.
If you are seeing this error, try entering your address with and NO periods or commas. Use the Number Symbol # instead of "Apartment" or "APT." For example "12 TRUMPLEDOR #4." Check your last tax return to confirm exactly how your address was written. Enter only the first 5 digits of your postal code.
"Payment Status Not Available" and other errors
Based on what I am hearing, the vast majority of people trying to provide the IRS with their direct deposit information or check their status are unable to do so for various reasons. I can confirm that people receiving errors ARE STILL RECEIVING their refunds. Please don't contact me; I can't help you with this. There is no one at the IRS to contact, either. My advice for the moment is to sit tight and wait for the errors to be fixed. The most likely reasons, this would happen, from what I can tell:
The last tax return you filed hasn't been processed yet. It can take more than 6 weeks and the IRS isn't processing any tax returns this month.
You provided information through the Non-filers system (see below) and it hasn't been processed.
You use a foreign address on your tax return. Yes, the IRS form has a place for a foreign postal code. However, it does not seem to be working for people with foreign addresses. You are still eligible to receive the payment, you just can't check your status or update your bank information.
You need to verify your identity. This is probably the most frustrating and common problem plaguing Americans living abroad. It goes like this: You filed a tax return for any of the past 3 or 4 years. Most likely, you requested a refund. The IRS does not have enough information on file to automatically verify your identity, or existence, because you do not have standard US tax statements (e.g. Forms 1099 or W-2) submitted to the IRS on your behalf from employers, banks, or contractors. They mailed you a letter (which, if you live in Israel, you would be very lucky to have received) stating that someone submitted a tax return with your SSN and you need to call to verify your identity. If you did not receive the letter or have not yet successfully called to verify your identity, there's nothing you can do right now. There is no one working at the IRS who will answer the phone and help you.
This information you input does not match the information the IRS has on file for you. Perhaps you are using your married name and that was never updated with the US SSA or IRS. Perhaps they have your date of birth wrong or you are inputting your AGI incorrectly. Please wait to contact your accountant, as the system isn't working well even if your information is correct.
You are trying to get something from the US Internal Revenue System. The IRS is understaffed and has been forced to send out a massive sum of money very quickly. Can you really expect them to do it with perfect accuracy? Based on my professional experience, speed and accuracy are not the strongest assets of the IRS, and now you want both? Just be patient.
What if I can't get a refund or I received the wrong amount?
If you received the wrong amount. Wait for the IRS to send you a letter. There is supposed to be a way you can request a correction. If you were unable to get a refund at all, you will have another opportunity to request a refund or correct the amount when you file your 2020 taxes next year. You will not be required to pay back anything if your 2020 income is above the limit.
What if I didn't need to file?
If you didn't meet the filing thresholds, which can be found HERE, AND you do not receive US social security or railroad benefits, you can report your basic information and direct deposit information to the IRS here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here
What if I didn't need to file AND I was married to a non-US citizen?
If you were considered married at the end of 2019 in your country of residence, even if you didn't report your marriage to the US, you cannot use the filing status "single." If your spouse does not have a US taxpayer ID (ITIN or SSN) you cannot use the simplified option for non-filers.
You can e-file a regular tax return choosing "married filing separately" and leave the space for your spouse's number blank (do not input zero's like in my video.) Based on my experience, you need to input minimal income, such as $1 of interest.
If you can't get the e-file system to work, I suggest you wait for more information and for the system to work better. If you don't want wait, you can print the forms you fill out through e-file OR download Form 1040, fill it out carefully (see tutorial below and take note of my comment regarding Schedule B), and write ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENT at the top. Print the form, sign and date with PEN (not electronic signature) and mail in the form to the appropriate address. It is not clear if the IRS will record the direct deposit information written on a tax return if no refund for 2019 is requested. Time will tell. Additionally, the IRS is not processing any paper tax returns right now. If you mail in a tax return, you will not be able to use any other electronic filing options or options for non-filers. So, ideally, I recommend waiting.
If you live outside the US, you generally mail your tax return to:
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Austin, TX 73301-0215
Below is a video demonstrating the e-file system. I can now confirm that someone who used this form on April 12 with no refund due received her EIP by direct deposit on April 30 based on direct deposit information she provided on this form. The "Get Payment" app continued to say that her status was unavailable, but she did receive her direct deposit.
What if I didn't report my income?
If you met the thresholds for filing US taxes (explained HERE) in any of the past years (including foreign income), you should speak with a professional US accountant ASAP to help get that taken care of. You may find the video below helpful.
Can dependents apply for their own payment?
People who can be claimed as a dependent of another person are not eligible. If your parent claims you as a dependent, even if you have income and are required to file a tax return, you cannot apply for this payment. If you usually claim your grown child or elderly parent as a dependent and choose not to this year, according to the IRS, they would not be eligible for their own payment if they COULD be claimed as a dependent. Therefore, generally, only US citizens who provide at least half of their own living expenses would be eligible. If you have dependents under age 17 with US social security numbers, you are eligible for an additional $500 with your own refund.
What if I made a mistake?
In this video, my colleague Hannah Russek, EA, and I discuss how to fix mistakes in the EIP application - specifically - What do I do if I used the non-filers system, but I was supposed to file a real tax return?