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Tracking down 2020 — yes, two-year-old — missing EIPs

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Still trying to find out where your 2020 economic impact payment money is? Yes, from two years ago. The IRS has updated its frequently asked questions on how to trace this long-overdue amount. (Photo by Ann H from Pexels)

This filing season is supposed to focus on 2021 tax returns, but some folks still are struggling with Internal Revenue Service issues from years ago.

Specifically, some individuals are trying to track down COVID-19 economic impact payments (EIPs) the IRS says it issued two years ago.

Yeah, it's been, and still is, that kind of tax crazy in pandemic time.

First EIPS issued in 2020: In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act authorized direct payments of up to $1,200 for eligible individuals and $2,400 for couples, with $500 added for every child. The amounts were determined by the IRS based on 2019 tax returns for those who filed them, and lacking that, on 2018 information in the IRS database.

The agency began distributing these first coronavirus EIPs that month.

Nine months later, the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act provided for a second round of Recovery Rebate Credits, which is the official name of the paid-in-advance EIPs. This second group provided even more relief: 1,200 per individual, including dependent children. Married couples without kids could get a maximum combined $2,400.

As with the first amounts, this law that took effect on Dec. 27, 2020, instructed the IRS to deliver payments to qualifying individuals. These second amounts started going out shortly after the bill became law on Dec. 27, 2020.

The EIPs that were delivered in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic were a great help to millions…who actually received them.

For whatever reasons, that didn't happen in some cases. And those EIP-wanting individuals are still trying to track down the payments. Two years later.

This week, the IRS updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) in a Fact Sheet to try to help these folks. The updated question and answer is F8, Missing Economic Impact Payment: How do I request a payment trace to track my first and second Economic Impact Payments?

Tracking 2020 EIPs: You can check out the full Fact Sheet, but if you're trying to track down any almost two-year-old payments, below is the IRS' revised tracking advice.

The highlights are the IRS' in the official revision. I've inserted an excerpt of the form you might need to file to initiate a trace of your missing EIP(s).

You should only request a payment trace to track your payment if your online account shows a first or second payment was issued to you and you have not received it.

Do not request a payment trace to determine if you were eligible for a payment or to confirm the amount of payment you should have received.

How we process your claim
We'll process your claim for a missing payment in one of two ways:

  • If a trace is initiated and the IRS determines that the check wasn't cashed, the IRS will credit your account for that payment, but the IRS cannot reissue your payment. Instead, you will need to claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return if eligible.

    Note: If you are filing your 2020 tax return before your trace is complete, do not include the payment amount on line 16 or 19 of the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet. If you do, you may receive a notice saying your 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit was changed, but an adjustment will be made after the trace is complete and it is determined your payment has not been cashed. You will not need to take any additional action to receive the credit.

    If you do not request a trace on your payment, you may receive an error when claiming the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return. Since the payment was issued to you, you may not be eligible for any credit.

  • If the check was cashed, the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send you a claim package that includes a copy of the cashed check. Follow the instructions. The Treasury Department's Bureau of the Fiscal Service will review your claim and the signature on the canceled check before determining whether the payment can be reversed and your Recovery Rebate Credit adjusted.

To start a payment trace:

Form 3911 refund etc tracking request
See more tax forms and more about them at See more tax forms and more about them at Talking Tax Forms!

To complete the Form 3911:     

  • Write "EIP1" or "EIP2" on the top of the form to identify the payment you want to trace.
  • Complete the form answering all refund questions as they relate to your Economic Impact Payment.
  • When completing item 7 under Section 1:
    • Check the box for "Individual" as the Type of return
    • Enter "2020" as the Tax Period
    • Do not write anything for the Date Filed 
  • Sign the form. If you file married filing joint, both spouses must sign the form.

After completing Form 3911, you must mail or FAX it to the IRS facility that handles the issue based on where you live. You'll find those address and FAX numbers in the Fact Sheet.

Also, notes the IRS, don't mail Form 3911 if you have already requested a trace by phone.

The IRS says it generally takes six weeks for you to get a response after it receives your Form 3911. However, it could be even longer, as the agency continues to work through its filing backlog and this year's tax filing season returns.

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