What Is the IRS Timeline to Send the Third Stimulus Checks?

Posted on 03/12/21 by John Waggoner

Treasury checks for coronavirus relief; Closeup view against green background

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En español | Americans started seeing the third round of stimulus payments in their bank accounts on March 12. As of May 5, the IRS says it has sent 164 million stimulus payments, worth about $386 billion.

“Department of Treasury and the IRS are working hard to get relief payments out the door as fast as possible to the American people; people can expect to start seeing direct deposits hit their bank accounts as early as this weekend,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, in a press briefing on March 11, the day the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was signed into law. “And payments to eligible Americans will continue throughout the course of the next several weeks.”

A bigger payout with more stringent income limits

The new stimulus relief legislation calls for a onetime payment of $1,400 to single adults. Married couples who file jointly will receive $2,800 total ($1,400 apiece). Families will get an additional $1,400 for each eligible dependent, regardless of age. A family of four could get $5,600 in total payments. And like the second round of stimulus payments, the third round specifically prohibits payments to anyone who died before Jan. 1, 2020.

There are more stringent income limits for the third round of stimulus payments. Those who filed their 2019 or 2020 federal taxes as a single taxpayer need to have had $75,000 or less in adjusted gross income to get the maximum payment. For heads of household, the limit is $112,500, and for couples, the limit is $150,000. Payments are reduced gradually to the top limits: $80,000 for single filers, $160,000 for joint filers and $120,000 for heads of household. (Use our Coronavirus Stimulus Check Calculator to estimate the amount you’ll receive.)


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Projected timeline for sending third stimulus checks

The IRS delivered virtually all of the second round of stimulus checks in less than a month, starting Dec. 29, 2020, two days after then-President Donald Trump signed the $900 billion bill into law. 

Congress gave the IRS until Jan. 15, 2021, to issue the bulk of the 147 million payments so that the agency could quickly pivot to preparing for tax-filing season. After that, taxpayers were instructed to claim any missing stimulus money from the first or second rounds on their 2020 tax returns in the form of a tax credit.

The third round of payments hit at the height of the 2020 tax-filing season, and it was difficult for the IRS to ship all of the stimulus checks in less than a month and process millions of returns at the same time. To give itself some breathing room, the IRS moved the deadline for filing and paying federal income taxes to May 17.

The third stimulus payments are being rolled out in tranches, or groups, by direct deposit and through the mail as a check or debit card. The vast majority of all economic impact payments (EIPs) will be issued by direct deposit, the IRS says, and it will continue to send batches of EIPs every week.

March 12

The IRS, via the Treasury, sent the first tranche of payments on March 12, a total of 90 million payments worth about $242 billion. Most of these payments went to people who had filed 2019 or 2020 federal income taxes, or who had used the online IRS Non-Filers Tool.

The direct deposit payments were payable as of March 17, although some may have appeared in bank accounts earlier than that. While most of the payments were delivered electronically, Treasury mailed roughly 150,000 checks worth approximately $442 million.

March 19

The Treasury began the second wave of payments on March 19; direct deposit payments have a payable date of March 24. The second tranche had 37 million payments, with a total value of $83 billion. As in the first tranche, payments went primarily to those who had filed eligible 2019 or 2020 returns, as well as to those who had used the IRS online Non-Filers Tool.

About 17 million of the payments in the second wave were direct deposits, worth $38 billion, and about 15 million payments were paper checks, with a value of nearly $34 billion. Another 5 million were prepaid debit cards, worth a total $11 billion. The IRS cautioned people to check their mail carefully so they wouldn’t throw out a stimulus payment with the junk mail.

March 26

The IRS began sending supplemental payments to people whose stimulus checks were based on their 2019 tax return, but whose 2020 return showed they were eligible for a larger payment. The payments also went to people who the IRS did not previously have information for, but who filed a tax return in 2020. Official pay date: March 31. This third batch includes more than 4 million payments, with a total value of more than $10 billion. About half were sent by direct deposit, and half were sent by paper check.

April 2

Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries who did not file a 2019 or 2020 tax return — and did not use the IRS Non-Filers Tool for the previous rounds of stimulus checks —  started getting their payments April 2. This batch, which has an official payment date of April 7, included more than 25 million payments with a total value of more than $36 billion, the IRS says. The largest block – 19 million worth $26 billion – went to these beneficiaries. 

Other groups also got stimulus payments in this round. More than 3 million payments, with a total value of nearly $5 billion, went to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries. Nearly 85,000 payments, with a total value of more than $119 million, went to Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) beneficiaries. In addition, the IRS sent more than 1 million of these “plus-up” payments, with a total value of more than $2 billion, to people who have already received payments based on their 2019 tax returns but are eligible for a new or larger payment based on their recently processed 2020 tax returns. 

April 14

The Treasury department says it sent out two million payments with a value of more than $3.4 billion, payable April 14, in the fifth batch of payments. About 1.2 million payments were sent by direct deposit, and 800,000 were sent by paper check.

More than 320,000 payments, with a total value of $450 million, went to Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiaries who receive Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefit payments but who don’t normally file a tax return and didn’t use the IRS online Non-Filers Tool last year.

Nearly 850,000 payments, with a total value of nearly $1.6 billion, went to eligible individuals for whom the IRS previously did not have information to issue stimulus payments but who recently filed a tax return.  Another 72,000 payments went to Social Security beneficiaries who didn’t file a 2020 or 2019 tax return and didn’t use the Non-Filers Tool last year.

This batch also sent more than 700,000 supplemental payments to people whose stimulus check was based on their 2019 returns but are eligible for a higher payment based on their 2020 return.

April 21

The Treasury, via the IRS, sent nearly 2 million payments, starting April 16, with a payment date of April 21. This set of payments totaled about $3.4 billion.

About 600,000 payments went to Social Security and SSI recipients, including those with foreign addresses. Another 700,000 went to people for whom the IRS did not previously have information for sending stimulus payments, but who recently filed a tax return.

The remainder were “plus up” payments to people whose previous stimulus checks were based on their 2019 tax return. These people received additional stimulus money based on their 2020 return.

April 28

The IRS sent nearly 2 million payments with a value of more than $4.3 billion, beginning April 23, with a pay date of April 28.  This eleventh batch of payments contains about 1.1 million direct deposit payments (with a total value of $2.5 billion) and about 850,000 paper check payments (with a total value of more than $1.8 billion).

As with the previous week, the bulk of the payments went to people who had not been registered with the IRS previously. The rest were “plus up” payments to those who had received stimulus checks based on their 2019 tax return.

May 5

The IRS sent more than 1.1 million payments worth more than $2 billion beginning April 30, with a pay date of May 5. More than 585,000 payments went to individuals for whom the IRS had not had information previously. The rest were “plus-up” payments to those who had received stimulus checks based on their 2019 tax return. About 600,000 of this batch of payments were via direct deposit; the rest were by paper checks.

Haven’t received your third stimulus payment yet?

The IRS will continue to send checks via the Treasury. The majority who have received a first or second payment don’t need to do anything more to get the third payment, which often will be sent out automatically. Following the model of the second round of checks, payments should be issued automatically to people who:

  • Filed 2019 or 2020 federal tax returns. The IRS will use the taxpayer’s latest processed return.
  • Registered for the first round of stimulus payments through the non-filer portal on IRS.gov by Nov. 21, 2020.
  • Receive Social Security (both retirement and disability), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Railroad Retirement Board or Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

Those receiving Social Security and other federal benefits will generally receive this third payment the same way as their regular benefits.

The IRS Get My Payment Tool allows you to provide information to the agency for a stimulus check and to track payment status.

If you got your payment based on your 2019 return and find that you’re entitled to more based on your 2020 return, the IRS will compute the additional amount owed to you.

Recap of first and second rounds of stimulus payments

Most Americans have received their initial $1,200 stimulus checks, or economic impact payments (EIPs), as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calls them. The first round of stimulus money, which was approved under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March 2020, also included $500 payments for eligible dependent children under age 17. Payments were sent via direct deposit, paper check and prepaid debit card.

Congress included a second round of stimulus checks in a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill in December 2020 that offered most Americans payments of up to $600 for themselves and their dependent children under age 17. It was a way to put more money directly in the pockets of families still struggling to manage the economic fallout of the pandemic. By law the IRS had until January 15, 2021, to issue the bulk of the second-round stimulus checks. 

If you didn’t get the first two rounds of payments, or thought you didn’t get as much as you deserved, you can collect your missing stimulus money by filing a 2020 tax return and claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit

John Waggoner covers all things financial for AARP, from budgeting and taxes to retirement planning and Social Security. Previously he was a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance and USA Today and has written books on investing and the 2008 financial crisis. Waggoner's USA Today investing column ran in dozens of newspapers for 25 years.

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