How to Get Your Stimulus Money by Direct Deposit
The fastest way for someone to get their stimulus money is by direct deposit. That can only happen if the government has their banking information. If it doesn’t, any stimulus check will take weeks – perhaps months – to arrive by mail as a check.
The IRS has made two web portals available so that individuals whose banking information is not on file with the agency can get their stimulus money by direct deposit. However, it is not intuitively clear which one someone should use and whether it will accomplish the job. Part of the answer depends on whether they filed a tax return or not.
Most tax filers who received a tax refund will automatically get their stimulus money by direct deposit. All other tax filers will be able to use a web portal called Get My Payment to make that happen. But it won’t work for everybody.
Some people who don’t file a tax return will also get their payment automatically. However, most will not. For them, the IRS has a web portal called Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here that may help. But as with most things in life, the devil is in the details.
A. People Who Filed Tax Returns
People who filed tax returns fall into three groups. The luckiest ones are those who received a refund by direct deposit on a return filed for 2019 or 2018. The least lucky ones received their refund through a tax return preparer who filed their return for 2019 or 2018. Anyone not in either one of these groups falls into the last group of tax filers.
The Lucky Ones: Anyone who filed a return for 2019 or 2018 and received a refund by direct deposit will receive their stimulus money by direct deposit without taking any further action. Of course, this assumes that the account information is still accurate.
If someone has a new bank, their life is a bit more complicated. If the inaccurate information is on their 2018 return, they will need to file their 2019 return as soon as possible to update it. Otherwise, they’ll have to wait to receive a check in the mail. If the inaccurate information is on their 2019 return, they are out of luck. The IRS will send them a check; there is no way to update the information now.
The Very Unlucky Ones. People who received a refund directly from a tax return preparer will not receive their stimulus money automatically by direct deposit. That’s because the IRS does not have their banking information. Unfortunately, the IRS erroneously sent their money to their tax return preparers instead. It’s not yet clear how this situation will be rectified or how long it will take. However, people who receive same day refunds from a tax preparer tend to be at the lowest end of the income ladder. So, they probably need the money more than anyone. That means it’s a very big problem if they have to wait to get access to it.
All Other Tax Filers. Anyone else who filed a tax return will receive their check in the mail in a few weeks or months, assuming they qualify. However, someone in this situation can get their money more quickly by direct deposit if they use the Get My Payment web portal to give the IRS their banking information.
B. People Who Did Not File a Tax Return
People who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 fall into two groups. The first consists of those who receive social security benefits or VA benefits. The second consists of those who did not.
Non-Filers – SSA Benefit Recipients: Anyone who receives VA compensation and pension benefits, supplemental security income or Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability benefits will receive their stimulus money automatically without taking any other action. They will get their money the same way they receive their benefits.
However, there are two instances where it will be necessary for someone to take action.
If someone only started receiving benefits in 2020, they will have to use the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here web portal to provide the government with the information it will need to determine whether they are eligible and the amount of money they are entitled to receive.
If someone has a qualified dependent under age 17, their payment will not be adjusted to reflect that fact. They will have to use the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here web portal to provide the information the government will need to add an extra $500 for each qualifying child.
Non-Filers – All Other: Anyone else who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 should use the IRS Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here web portal to provide the information the agency will need to send them their stimulus money. The payment will be made by direct deposit if they provide their banking information. Otherwise, they will get a check in the mail.
Richard Winchester is a Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law and an expert in federal tax policy. His work is frequently cited in Congressional Reports on tax matters and he is also a national authority on small business and federal employment tax policy. Professor Winchester's biography and publications are available online.