Got a stimulus check? It’s important you keep this IRS letter, and what to do if you lose it – CNET

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The IRS letter confirming your stimulus check isn’t junk mail. You’ll want to keep it.


Angela Lang/CNET

Did you get the third stimulus check, or are you still waiting? Either way, the IRS will mail a letter confirming it sent you a stimulus check and the total amount allocated to you (compare it to your estimated stimulus total here). Whenever the letter comes, it’s a good idea to keep it. This is the main way the IRS confirms that a payment was sent, and for how much. If you feel you didn’t get your correct share, this letter could be the quickest way to claim the full amount. But it might be several months — or up to a year — to file for the rest.

For example, since the $1,400 stimulus check is being sent in the middle of tax season, you may find that you’re actually owed more than you got, especially if the IRS calculated your total based on 2019 taxes, but you made less money in 2020 than 2019, or gained a dependent, like a new baby. Also, if you’ve recently moved, it’s important to let the USPS and IRS know so this document reaches you.

If you’re among the group of people who didn’t get a first or second stimulus payment you were eligible for, you’ll need to claim it as a Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your 2020 tax return — which is now due May 17. (You can use our first stimulus check calculator and second payment calculator to help square up your estimated total.) If you never received the IRS letter or you misplaced it, we can tell you how to get a copy so you can claim your missing stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit. By the way, here’s what to know about a fourth stimulus check.

What’s this IRS letter (Notice 1444) and why do I need to keep it?

With the two previous stimulus payments, the IRS sent a confirmation in the mail within 15 days of your payment going out — Notices 1444 and 1444-B. Expect another notice for the third check as well. While the IRS online tracker tool tells you how when the check is scheduled to send, it doesn’t say how much money you’ll get. This is where the letter comes in. 

The notice will tell you what the IRS allowance is. If the number feels off — like perhaps a dependent was skipped — or the total doesn’t match the estimated amount from our stimulus calculator, it could indicate that you may need to hunt down your missing money later in 2021 or even 2022 on next year’s taxes. 

The IRS advises you to keep the notice for your tax records. What this really means is that it’s useful if you need to claim missing money in the future. That’s a very distinct possibility. If the IRS owes you a larger stimulus check based on your 2020 taxes, but used your 2019 taxes to calculate your total, you’ll be eligible to claim that money down the road.

Here’s more information on using the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet to figure out the credit from the first two checks that you can claim on your 2020 taxes. You’ll essentially enter the total amount you determine you’re owed on line 30 of the 2020 1040 or 1040-SR tax forms.


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What if I moved recently?

The IRS would have mailed a notice to your last known address with your information on the payment. You’ll need to inform the IRS and USPS if you’ve moved. The IRS needs to independently have your correct information on file.

Can I get the IRS information somewhere else if I can’t find the physical letter?

If you don’t have the IRS confirmation notice, you can find the information in your federal tax account, using the IRS website. 

If you don’t have an account set up with the IRS, head to the IRS account page and tap the blue button that says Create or view your account to get started.

You’ll need to have some information on hand to set up your account, including tax and financial information, plus an email address and a mobile phone number to receive activation codes.

The IRS said for married couples who are filing jointly, each spouse will need to log into their own account.

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The IRS has sent out two rounds of stimulus payments.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What do I do if I can’t complete the IRS registration?

The online registration process can take about 15 minutes. During the setup process, the IRS will first email and then text two activation codes. If the codes don’t come through, the agency will mail you a letter with an activation code, which can take five to 10 days to get to you. If you want to track the letter, you can use this free service from the USPS.

Once you’ve set up your online account with the IRS, you can check your account for the information contained in the notice. If your stimulus payment information is not available when you check, the IRS said it should be in the coming weeks.

Here’s more information on tax season and your stimulus check, everything you need to know about the third stimulus check and what could happen with a fourth stimulus check. Here’s what we know about payments for the Child Tax Credit.

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