ASK A FINANCIAL PLANNER: I filed my taxes with H&R Block or TurboTax — where's my stimulus check?

  • I've been answering questions about stimulus checks over on Twitter this week, and one topic keeps coming up: Some Americans who filed their taxes with H&R Block or TurboTax are still waiting on their payments.
  • Direct-deposited stimulus checks are already landing in bank accounts, and paper checks and debit cards are being mailed throughout January.
  • But a subset of tax filers who used H&R Block or TurboTax to file their 2019 taxes and opted into a refund transfer program have experienced delays receiving their money. 
  • The payments are delayed because the IRS is direct-depositing payments into the bank accounts where it sent refund checks for 2019 taxes.
  • If you chose to use part of your refund to pay your fees with H&R Block or TurboTax, your payment has gone to an account you don't have access to. But don't worry — you'll still get your money.
  • Have a personal-finance question for Tanza? Fill out this anonymous form. 

Question: I filed my 2019 tax return with H&R Block or TurboTax — where's my stimulus check? 

Answer: It might be delayed several days or weeks, but you'll still get a second stimulus check if you qualify.

First, find out the status of your payment using the "Get My Payment" tool on the IRS website. You need your Social Security number, birth date, street address, and zip code. It could take a while to load. 

The tool will show the status of your first and second payments; it updates once a day. The second payment is the one just authorized by Congress and the president over the holidays. It's worth up to $600 per individual and $1,200 per couple, and income limits apply. The IRS is sending out most payments via direct deposit, but will also mail paper checks and debit cards.

If you're getting a direct deposit, the tool will show the date of the deposit and the last four digits of the bank account number. Or you might see the date a check or debit card was mailed to you (these may take up to three to four weeks to arrive, the IRS notes). Alternatively, you might see a "not available" message.

What if I don't recognize the bank account number?

Don't panic — it's most likely not fraud. It actually has something to do with how you filed your 2019 taxes and received your refund.

Millions of people file their taxes through online tax software providers every year. It can be simple, convenient, and more affordable than visiting a CPA (for many taxpayers, it's free). 

In an effort to extend that convenience, H&R Block, TurboTax, and a few others offer users an option to pay for their services through their refund instead of via credit or debit card on the spot. It sounds easy, but there's usually an additional fee tacked on. H&R Block and TurboTax both charge $40 per federal refund for this option, on top of the fee you paid to prep and file your taxes.

Because H&R Block and TurboTax have first claim to your refund, they essentially set up a holding account where the IRS will deposit your refund when it's ready. This account number is listed on your tax return and that's what you're seeing in the "Get My Payment" tool. For a typical refund, after the tax provider's share is taken out, the rest is deposited in your bank account of choice. It usually happens quickly. 

Unfortunately, that process is in conflict with how the IRS handles stimulus payments. In situations where holding accounts are no longer active — the tax provider has already taken their fee and transferred the refund to the taxpayer — stimulus payments are bouncing back to the IRS.

H&R Block quickly recognized the issue and on January 5 published guidance reassuring its users that stimulus checks for customers who used its refund transfer service would be direct deposited by January 6 or mailed as a paper check. H&R Block says anyone whose 2019 refund was deposited on a Emerald Prepaid Mastercard should also have received their stimulus payment on the card.

As of January 7, TurboTax says on its website that it has given correct bank account information to the IRS and expects stimulus payments to be sent to taxpayers "within days." Anyone who opted to have their 2019 refund deposited onto TurboTax's Visa Debit Card should visit this page for guidance.

What if I get a 'not available' message?

The IRS says anyone who receives this status message either isn't eligible for a second stimulus check or is but won't be getting theirs right now.

However, several Twitter users who filed their taxes using TurboTax have told me this week that after initially seeing a "not available" status message, their stimulus payment was later deposited into their bank account. I've reached out to TurboTax to confirm whether this is happening to users who used the refund transfer option, and I'll update this post when I get a response.

Most importantly, anyone who qualifies for a first or second stimulus payment and doesn't get it by direct deposit or in the mail will be able to claim the money on their 2020 tax return. It will be labeled a "recovery rebate credit" on Form 1040 and used to offset your 2020 tax bill. If your tax bill is reduced to $0, you'll get the remaining money back as a refund.

Tanza Loudenback, CFP®, is the personal-finance correspondent at Business Insider. She writes most frequently about saving money, planning for retirement, taxes, debt management, and strategies for building wealth. Have a money question for Tanza? Fill out this anonymous form. 

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