The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced a five-week extension to the deadline to register for the first $1,200 stimulus check at the same time as plans for stimulus check 2 look set to be put on hold until after the election.
The decision from the IRS means those people who don't typically file a tax return – and haven't received an Economic Impact Payment – now have until November 21 2020 to stake their claim, rather than October 15.
"We took this step to provide more time for those who have not yet received a payment to register to get their money, including those in low-income and underserved communities," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.
Who is the stimulus check deadline extension for?
While most eligible US taxpayers have automatically received their stimulus check, there are fears that those most in need of the payment - and who do not normally file taxes - are missing out.
Around two weeks’ ago, the IRS revealed it was sending reminder letters to almost nine million Americans to check whether they were eligible to claim the stimulus check. In particular, the new extension is aimed at those on low incomes for whom the extra money could help cover their rent or pay for groceries, and so hopefully avoid the need for them to use personal loans, or worse, payday loans, to get by. However, this latest move appears to be the final attempt that the IRS will be making to make sure those most in need of financial support actually receive it.
"The IRS is deeply involved in processing and programming that overlaps filing seasons,” Rettig said. “Any further extension beyond November would adversely impact our work on the 2020 and 2021 filing seasons. The Non-Filers portal has been available since the spring and has been used successfully by many millions of Americans."
What do you need to do to claim?
In order to check their eligibility for the payment, those who don't typically file a tax return are being urged to register as quickly as possible using the Non-Filers: Enter Info Here tool on IRS.gov. The tool is designed for people with incomes typically below $24,400 for married couples, and $12,200 for singles who could not be claimed as a dependent by someone else, and includes couples and individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
The fastest way to receive any payment is to choose the direct deposit option when applying - anyone who does not choose this option will receive a check. Payments are up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for joint-filers, and an extra $500 is paid for each qualifying dependent.
Importantly, the tool, which is part of the Free File Alliance's offering of free products on the website, will not be available after November 21. The IRS also makes clear that the additional time is solely for non-tax filers who have not received their stimulus payment, and that taxpayers who requested an extension of time to file their 2019 tax return still only have until October 15 to load up the best tax software and file.
What about stimulus check 2?
Shortly after the IRS announcement, hopes that the stimulus check 2 might soon be on its way to the American people suffered a blow when President Trump revealed he would not enter further negotiations with Democrats over a new COVID-19 relief package until after the election.
Suggesting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “not negotiating in good faith”, the President tweeted further: “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business.”
A few hours later, Trump appeared to row back slightly from his original stance, and called on Congress to send him a “Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200)” that he would “Sign right now”. However, with Pelosi consistently expressing a preference for a comprehensive bill of measures, the piecemeal nature of the President’s suggestion seems unlikely to come to fruition in the near term.
The month-long break in discussions will also put paid to hopes of agreement being reached over further support for the millions of workers who have recently lost their jobs amid the health crisis. The original enhanced unemployment benefit that paid to those out of work an additional $600 a week on top of their usual benefit drew to a close at the end of July.
What should struggling Americans do?
With no replacement unemployment package as yet confirmed, and a second stimulus check far from imminent too, millions of households are facing a tough time to make ends meet financially. So what options are available to those who are struggling?
While enhanced unemployment benefits are not currently being paid, the standard benefits are, so signing up for these, and other potential support is still a must. Also check whether you’re due a tax refund from the IRS that may provide you with a welcome lump sum.
For many, making sure a roof remains over their head is a constant worry, and if this a concern for you, contacting your landlord or lender is a must. The best mortgage lenders are being more amenable than ever to home owners’ difficulties and will likely allow you some leeway until you hopefully get back on your feet. If you have an existing home loan, also take the time to see if you can save on your monthly payments by switching to a low rate deal from the best refinance mortgage companies.
Debt will already be a concern for some and will undoubtedly become an even greater worry for many more as time progresses. If you’re struggling to keep up with credit card payments, the best advice is to contact your card issuer to see if they can help, while the same applies if you’re behind with your personal loan. While the temptation may be strong, avoiding payday loans as a means to get by should also be a priority, unless you’ve absolutely exhausted all other options first. This advice is even more relevant if debt is already dragging you down further than you would like - in this situation, talk to family and friends, and also debt counselors, or the best debt consolidation companies, to see if there is any way in which they can help.