Millions of Americans are at risk of losing out on a coronavirus stimulus check worth up to $1,200, a government watchdog said this week.
Up to 8.7 million individuals who are eligible to receive the economic impact payments have yet to receive the money due to incomplete IRS and Treasury Department records, according to a Monday report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress' auditing arm.
It's the third report from the GAO examining the implementation of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and other pandemic relief measures by Congress and the Trump administration earlier this year.
The watchdog found that while the Treasury Department and IRS have tried to address distribution issues involving the checks, the agencies still “lack updated information on how many eligible recipients have yet to receive these funds."
"The lack of such information could hinder outreach efforts and place potentially millions of individuals at risk of missing their payment," the report said.
The majority of individuals affected are Americans who don't file taxes, the GAO said. About 14 million Americans don't file a tax return and don't receive federal benefits, and as a result, didn't have information filed with the IRS about how much money they make per year. The IRS uses that information to determine stimulus check eligibility.
Roughly 5 million of those individuals used the IRS's “non-filers” tool to submit their information and register for the payment.
Americans have until Oct. 15 to submit their information using the non-filers tool.
The non-filers tool is intended for couples who earn less than $24,400 and individuals who earn less than $12,200, as well as those who are homeless. The IRS noted that whether or not individuals have earned an income or work, they’re eligible to receive the payments.
There were also about 1.1 million Americans -- many of whom are low-income -- who were underpaid, the GAO report found. Around 355,000 non-filers with children never received their qualifying payment of $500 per child, and nearly 700,000 widows did not receive a payment because their spouse died.
“GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, update and refine the estimate of eligible recipients who have yet to file for an EIP to help target outreach and communications efforts,” the report said.
Although recipients of Social Security benefits, survivor or disability benefits, or Railroad Retirement benefits automatically received the $1,200 even if they didn’t file a tax return, they are still required to use the non-filer tool to obtain the extra $500-per-child benefit available.
If you submitted your information through the non-filers tool before May 17 and received your stimulus check but it was missing the extra $500 payment for a dependent, the IRS said it began mailing out those payments on Aug. 5.
The money can be substantial, particularly for low-income individuals who qualify for the maximum one-time payment of $1,200 (or $2,400 for couples). The payments are tapered for higher-earners and phase out completely for individuals who earn more than $99,000.
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