What You Need To Know About IRS Payment Trace 

January 15 was the last day for the IRS to issue the second stimulus payments. However, millions of eligible taxpayers never received their checks due to an agency mistake, including ones for qualifying dependents. 

Most of these people will need to claim the missing funds when filing their 2020 tax returns under the Recovery Rebate Credit. But some will have to call the IRS and request a Payment Trace.

CNET explains what Payment Trace is and the two scenarios when you should seek one instead of claiming the money on your tax return.

Scenario #1: The Get My Payment Tool Said The IRS Sent Your Check, But It Never Arrived

If you never received your $600 stimulus payment, your first step is to visit the Get My Payment tool on the IRS’s website. The IRS updates the portal once every 24 hours, so there is no need to check more than one time each day. When you log in, you will need to provide your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your birthday, and your mailing address.

This tool will display the status of your stimulus check, whether the IRS scheduled an issue date, the form of payment you will receive (check, debit card, or direct deposit), and the date of arrival. In some cases, you might read another message or encounter an error.

You will need to contact the IRS for a Payment Trace if the Get My Payment tool indicates that the agency distributed your payment, but it has not arrived within:


  • Five days after the deposit date (and your bank or credit union has not received it).
  • Four weeks after the IRS mailed a physical check or debit card to your mailing address.
  • Six weeks after the IRS sent your payment and you set up a forwarding address at your area post office.
  • Nine weeks after the IRS distributed your payment and you registered a foreign address.


Scenario #2: The IRS Sent You A Letter Verifying Your Payment, But You Never Received It

The IRS will issue a letter to every eligible taxpayer confirming that it sent the stimulus check after about 15 days. This letter will contain information explaining how to contact the agency if there is a discrepancy in your payment. If this letter arrived but not your stimulus check, you should contact the IRS and ask for a Payment Trace. Don’t throw away this letter, as you will need it when you file a dispute.

How To Request An IRS Payment Trace

There are two ways to request a Payment Trace:


  • Calling the IRS by phone at 800-919-9835
  • Sending Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund in the mail or via fax.


Visit the IRS website to see where to send the fax or form from your state.

To accurately submit Form 3911, follow these guidelines from the IRS:


  1. Write “EIP” (short for Economic Impact Payment) on the top of the document.
  2. Fill out the form and answer each refund question as it pertains to your situation and payment.
  3. When filling out Section 1, item 7:
    1. Mark the option for “Individual” as the Type of Return
    2. Write “2020” as the Tax Period
    3. Leave the Date Filed space empty.
    4. Sign the form. If you and your spouse file joint tax returns, both of you need to provide your signature.


Do not mail this form if you already initiated a Payment Trace over the phone. Additionally, do not request this process just to figure out whether you are eligible or how much money you qualify for.

What Does The IRS Do With Payment Trace Claims?

According to the IRS’s website, when you file a Payment Trace claim, it will complete one of the following as it processes your request:


  • If the IRS issued a check, but you never cashed it, you will receive a replacement. If you find the original payment later on, you must return it as soon as you can.


  • If you did cash your payment, the Fiscal Service Bureau will send you a claim package. This will contain a duplicate of the cashed check. After that, complete the instructions in the package. The Bureau will examine your claim and the signature on the canceled payment to determine whether they will send a second check. This process is intended to prevent fraudulent claims.


  • Rayome, Alison DeNisco. “Still No Second Stimulus Check? When to Report Your Missing Money to the IRS.” CNET, 16 Jan. 2021, www.cnet.com/news/still-no-second-stimulus-check-when-to-report-your-missing-money-to-the-irs/.


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