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How and when will the IRS send your stimulus check, and how are the two connected? Could tax season throw a wrench in the plan? Here's what you should know.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Eagerly awaiting your third stimulus check? You're in good company. The IRS has only just begun sending provisional payments since Friday night (they may not become fully accessible until March 17). The agency has turned on its online stimulus check tracking tool to provide general information about your $1,400 payment. However, the tool has some limitations, and can be downright obtuse at times. It also can't tell you exactly when your bank will make the payment available, or the date your check will arrive in the mail.

In addition, the first wave of money is aimed squarely at qualified recipients who already have direct deposit accounts on file with the IRS. The agency won't finish processing every payment for weeks. In addition, tens of millions more who will get their stimulus money in the form of a physical check or EIP card will have to wait for their $1,400 stimulus checks (calculate your total here). That's assuming everything goes right and there are no errors or delays in processing, posting or delivering your funds. 

For example, with tax returns due April 15, the IRS will have to process new payments using either 2019 or 2020 taxes (here's why it matters). Your payment group plays an outsize role in determining if you'll get your stimulus money sooner, or join a later wave. Personal circumstances are also important -- your check could wind up being garnished if you owe outstanding taxes or child support, for instance. Here's what you need to know. This story was recently updated.

When will my third stimulus check actually arrive?

People who currently see direct deposit payments in their bank account as pending or provisional may need to wait until the official payment date of March 17 to access the money. 

This is only the first wave of direct deposit payments as well, with the IRS planning to distribute money in batches to direct deposit recipients, and through the mail as a physical check or EIP card. It could still take days or weeks for a payment to be processed and scheduled before it actually appears on your doorstep. Any additional complications could also delay your payment. If you moved recently, tell the IRS and USPS.

Stimulus check delivery dates (semi-final)

Stimulus bill passed Congress

March 10

Stimulus bill signed into law

March 11

First direct deposit sent

March 12 (pending), March 17 (official)

First paper checks sent

Week of March 22 possible

First EIP cards sent

Week of March 29 possible

IRS deadline to finish sending checks

Dec. 31, 2021 (mandated by the bill)

Last date to receive a check

January 2022 (if checks sent late December)

Claims for missing stimulus money open

2021 tax season likely (in 2022)

Can I track my payment schedule online?

Yes. The IRS turned on Get My Payment, its online tracking tool for stimulus checks, on Sunday. This tool shows you the status of your payment, such as when a check is scheduled for delivery. The portal can also flag if there's a problem with your payment that you may need to address.

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Stimulus check 3: How much money you'll get


How could my payment group affect my delivery date?

The IRS identifies three payment groups based on how your money is sent:

Direct-deposit recipients: Typically got their stimulus money in the first wave. But both times there were issues involving deposits going to temporary accounts that were rejected by banks. In some cases, these people got paper checks or EIP cards instead, or had to wait for the issue to resolve.Paper checks: This is the payment type the IRS sent out second. A physical check can take weeks to arrive by mail, but the check can be deposited or cashed right away once it arrives.EIP cards: This payment type arrives as a prepaid debit card you must activate online to use. The IRS issued EIP cards last, delaying the payment's arrival for this recipient group by weeks.

Remember, it takes time for the IRS to process the well over 100 million payments expected in this third round of checks. Even tiny errors could cause a delay in you receiving your full or partial payment. (Here's more information for SSDI and SSI recipients, and other nonfilers.)

What's about changing priority groups?

Just because you got your payment by direct deposit the first two times doesn't necessarily mean you'll get it that way again. A lot depends on delivery going smoothly, and on any processing issues the IRS or Treasury could encounter with your case.

The IRS told CNET in January that some people who received their first stimulus payment as a physical check or EIP card may have been paid by the other method the second time around. And, anecdotally, we learned of people who received direct deposit payments the first time finally getting an EIP card in the mail -- and not an electronic bank transfer -- weeks after the IRS tool said the payment was issued. 


how long does it take for cbd oil to work for dog anxiety you get your stimulus check could influence how soon your payment arrives.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The other payment groups we've loosely defined include Social Security beneficiaries who received payments a different way the first time if they're part of the SSI or SSDI programs, and people with more complex scenarios that could lead to potential issues or holdups receiving their money. People in different child support situations are one example we've seen, as are people who are incarcerated and people with complex citizenship scenarios.

When is the deadline to send new stimulus checks?

Although the IRS and Treasury are acting fact to send stimulus checks, the agencies have until Dec. 31 to complete sending out the third payments. That's good news in the sense that they aren't facing a compressed deadline to send out all the checks. On the other hand, it also means some people may find themselves waiting, for a variety of reasons. There's still so much we don't know about how the IRS will deal with any fringe issues that arise. 

Will the IRS use my 2019 or 2020 tax return to calculate my payment?

Taxes are due April 15, and although the IRS has been lobbied to extend the tax due date, that doesn't appear likely this year. So how will the IRS figure out how much it owes you? It will calculate your total (you can also do that here) based on the most recent tax filing it's processed by the time it's ready to tabulate your check.

If you filed your 2020 taxes early and you know your tax return was already processed, your total would likely be on 2020's adjusted gross income, not 2020's, as intended. That presents complications if the difference between the two years disqualifies you from getting a third stimulus check. (Learn more about some of the stimulus check exceptions and catches here.)


The first two stimulus checks were nominally sorted by different payment groups, and one had a clear advantage over the others.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If I get a partial check, when could I claim the rest?

There are several reasons the IRS could owe you stimulus money for the third round of checks. Maybe the agency processed your 2019 tax return instead of 2020 and there was a discrepancy. Or you had a baby in 2020 you still need to claim as a dependent. Or a clerical error accidentally left out a new dependent. Maybe your payment never arrived or was accidentally garnished

Whatever the reason, the IRS may provide a way to file for missing stimulus money before the Dec. 31 deadline. If not, you might have to wait a year to claim it, until you file your 2021 taxes in 2022 (even if you're a nonfiler who isn't typically required to file taxes).

Which other stimulus check details do I need to know?

Stimulus checks aren't necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation. Here are additional guides for:

Older adults, people who are retired and veteransPeople who receive SSI or SSDIOther tax nonfilersFamilies with mixed-status citizenshipHouseholds with dependents, or people trying to understand if they'd receive their own checkFamilies with child support situations

Here's everything you need to know about the third stimulus check, how to calculate your stimulus total and every other way the stimulus bill can bring you more money.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

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