The Internal Revenue Service this week created about as much digital furor as the horn-honking protests in Lansing over the coronavirus-related shutdowns and restrictions across the economy.
People want their stimulus checks as much, likely even more, than some angry protesters want their landscaping done and the resumption of their lives.
“People are borderline panicking because this stimulus is a matter of life and death for many, I am out of food,” wrote Joshua from Cincinnati, Ohio, in an email. He claimed he was locked out of the IRS “Get My Payment” system since shortly after it was launched on April 15.
Despite what the IRS said earlier about the system running smoothly and efficiently, the roll-out of the “Get My Payment” online tool turned into a giant headache for both the IRS and consumers who are caught in the crosshairs of a system that just isn’t working for way too many of them.
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The IRS isn’t taking phone calls. But I’ve been taking plenty of emails this week from single mothers, retirees, health care workers who fear they are about to be laid off, and other frustrated taxpayers who aren’t seeing their stimulus money in their bank accounts and have no idea how to figure out when or whether that money will show up.
In a rush to get the deal done for the Economic Impact Payment, it seems like essential details of how to inform people about the extended payout process and getting a working tool online fell through the cracks in Washington.
About 80 million taxpayers were on course to receive their stimulus payments this week, according to the IRS. But millions of others were in an uproar.
The “Get My Payment” — which rolled out on April 15 — is advertised as a tool that will allow people to find when an Economic Impact Payment is expected to be deposited into their accounts. The stimulus money is being issued via direct deposit in waves to various groups over the next few weeks.
The tool is also marketed as a straightforward way for people to provide their bank information, if necessary, in order to avoid waiting around for a check in the next few months.
While many people have been able to use the system, according to the IRS data, plenty of others remained frustrated for at least the first three days of the roll-out. Some called themselves 49ers because they claim they were locked out of the system for 49 hours as they tried to get information or provide their bank account information.
And the IRS keeps updating its Frequently Asked Questions to give more clues on why you may not be able to add your direct deposit information or track your payment on “Get My Payment.”
On Friday, for example, the IRS noted that the application will declare “Payment Status Not Available” for several reasons including that the IRS hasn’t finished processing your 2019 return.
Or it’s also possible, the IRS said, that the “application doesn’t yet have your data; we’re working on adding more data to allow more people to use it.”
Here’s a look at some common hot-buttons from my email basket:
The IRS has my bank account information and I still don’t have stimulus money
If I sent the IRS money electronically, well, why can’t they send me my stimulus money to that very same account?
Vicki Rideout of Evansville, Wisconsin, had given the IRS her bank account information, not to get a direct deposit of a tax refund but instead to pay her 2019 taxes online.
“Would that bank information be used for the stimulus deposit, or would the filer need to submit bank info?” she asked. She tried to research the question but did not see it addressed.
I’m not surprised that she is confused, given that a banker I talked with this week thought the IRS would be able to use that information for directly depositing the stimulus money too. I wasn’t so sure but maybe, I thought, it could happen.
But that’s not the way it’s working.
The IRS keeps updating its FAQ list online regarding Economic Impact Payments and has added this information to respond to those who made an electronic payment from their bank account to the IRS, including direct debit installment agreements.
“The account information used to make an electronic payment to the IRS cannot be used as the account information for the direct deposit of your payment,” the FAQ states.
“If we do not have bank account information for you and your payment has not been processed yet, Get My Payment will allow you to submit your bank account information once you have properly verified your identity so that you can get your EIP via direct deposit. Otherwise, we will mail your payment to the address we have on file for you.”
Jerry Hirst, a tax preparer in Novi, said he’s had to tell many clients who didn’t get tax refunds in 2018 or 2019 that they still need to go to the “Get My Payment” tool to enter that bank information in order to receive direct deposit of the stimulus payment.
I’m getting kicked out of ‘Get My Payment’
Over and over, readers across the country are telling me that they’re not able to use this system. Some of this may be due to overload, some of this may be due to some programming quirks in the system that prevent people from entering their bank account information if they neither owed money for taxes nor received a refund.
And a string of individual situations might be causing you to be locked out. The IRS FAQ was updated to state: “In situations where payment status is not available, the app will respond with “Status Not Available.”
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The IRS said users could receive this message for a variety of reasons, including:
- If you are not eligible for a payment (see IRS.gov on who is eligible and who is not eligible).
- If you are required to file a tax return and have not filed in tax year 2018 or 2019.
- If you recently filed your return or provided information through “Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info on IRS.gov.” Your payment status will be updated when processing is completed.
- If you are an SSA or RRB Form 1099 recipient, SSI or VA benefit recipient, the IRS is working with your agency to issue your payment; your information is not available in this app yet.
Many TurboTax users, H&R Block users still aren’t seeing their money
Millions of Americans have to wait a while longer — and they’re not sure how much longer — because they receive their income tax refunds via prepaid cards, such as the H&R Block Emerald Card, Turbo Visa Debit Card or other prepaid cards.
Many times, consumers say they’re able to access the “Get My Payment” system at IRS.gov.
Once they’ve used the tool, though, they’re shocked to discover that money was deposited as of April 15 into an odd bank account that the consumer doesn’t recognize or control.
It’s a problem that takes place if you’ve had a tax refund directly deposited onto a card and had the tax preparation fees taken out before the money is sent to you. Or maybe you took out a tax refund advance.
On Thursday evening, H&R Block put the blame on the IRS.
“The IRS has bank account information for all H&R Block clients who received tax refunds electronically, and is determining when and how stimulus payments are distributed,” according to an H&R Block statement sent to the Free Press.
“They have created confusion by not always using clients’ final destination bank account information for stimulus payments.”
The company said it shares the frustration of its customers who aren’t getting their stimulus money promptly “due to IRS decisions, and we are actively working with the IRS to get stimulus payments sent directly to client accounts.”
The IRS isn’t processing my paper return
Sure, more than 90% of taxpayers file their 1040 federal tax returns electronically. The rest, though, still file paper returns and they’re not happy to discover that it could take weeks for the IRS to process those paper returns.
“The IRS is not currently able to process individual paper tax returns,” according to an IRS statement issued April 9.
“If you already have filed via paper but it has not yet been processed, do not file a second tax return or write to the IRS to inquire about the status of your return or your Economic Impact Payment. Paper returns will be processed once processing centers are able to reopen.”
We don’t know when that will be, of course, given the depths of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some people aren’t exactly sure what this means when it comes to waiting for a tax refund — and now a stimulus check.
“I filed a 2019 paper return about three weeks ago,” according to an email from Ron Lintz of Novi.
He wasn’t owed a refund. But he’s wondering if somehow this is going to delay his stimulus money. He does receive a direct deposit for his Social Security check.
“Will they pay me using Social Security direct deposit info?” he wondered. He’s been shut out of trying to enter his bank information at “Get My Payment” so maybe that’s possible.
One likely possibility: He’s getting kicked out of the “Get My Payment” system because the IRS doesn’t have direct deposit information off his tax return but he does receive Social Security benefits.
The “Get My Payment” FAQ notes that some people who receive Social Security benefits, as well as other government benefits, could see a “Status Not Available” notice at the site because “the IRS is working with your agency to issue your payment; your information is not available in this app yet.”
Next week, many who receive Social Security benefits via direct deposit could start seeing their stimulus cash. It helps to be patient. But many find that getting harder and harder to do.
Contact Susan Tomporat 313-222-8876 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @tompor. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.
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