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Glitches prevent $1,200 stimulus checks from reaching millions of Americans

What users see when the IRS "Get My Payment" website is unable to check on the status of their $1,200-plus relief payment.Heather Long/Washington Post

Many Americans woke up Wednesday expecting to find a payment of $1,200 or more from the US government in their bank account, but instead they realized nothing had arrived yet — or the wrong amount was deposited. Parents of young children complained they did not receive the promised $500 check for their dependent children.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instructed the Internal Revenue Service to get payments out as fast as possible to help offset the pain of losing jobs and shutting down businesses, but numerous glitches — affecting filers who used tax preparers, parents of dependent children, and people with 2019 tax returns still to be processed — are delaying payments and causing confusion.


Several million people who filed their taxes via H&R Block, TurboTax, and other popular services were unable to get their payments because the IRS did not have their direct deposit information on file, according to the Treasury, companies, and experts.

The IRS launched a ‘‘Get My Payment’’ tool Wednesday for people to track the status of their payment and enter direct deposit information, but many who used it said they received a message saying ‘‘Payment Status Not Available,’’ a frustration that left them without answers.

Some parents told The Washington Post that they received a $1,200 payment for a single head of household or a $2,400 check for a married couple but that the IRS left out the $500-per-child-under-17 payments.

IRS and Treasury officials acknowledged they are aware of these issues and are working to fix them. A Treasury spokeswoman noted the IRS processed nearly 80 million payments in less than three weeks. That’s just over half the 150 million payments expected to go out under the Economic Impact Payment program.

Social Security recipients will automatically receive the payments later this month. Paper checks will have President Trump’s name on them and are expected to start going out in coming days. Low-income Americans who do not normally file a tax return, including the homeless, are also eligible to receive the $1,200 check, but only if they enter their information in a new non-filers tool on IRS.gov.


Customers who use popular tax preparation services such as H&R Block, TurboTax, and Jackson Hewitt complained on Twitter and to the Post that they didn’t get their stimulus payment on Wednesday.

Up to 21 million tax filers could be affected, said consumer law expert Vijay Raghavan, because the IRS does not have these people’s direct deposit information on file if they received an advance on their tax refund from these companies or had the fee for tax preparation taken out of their tax refund.

The reason is that tax preparation companies received these people’s tax refund first, deducted their fees, and then distributed the remaining refund to the customers. Because of that, the IRS had a ‘‘temporary bank account’’ on file that the tax preparer created for the 2019 tax season, Raghavan said.

The IRS is aware of the problem, a spokesman said. Chi Chi Wu of the National Consumer Law Center said the IRS told her that it found a way to work around this problem and a ‘‘significant percentage’’ of these people will ultimately get a direct deposit. But so far, many are still waiting.

Matt Sielen of Chino, Calif., who recently lost his job, was shocked to discover that he would not be receiving the payment on his H&R Block Emerald Card, the debit card on which he received his tax refund. Sielen and his wife, a nurse who cares for homebound people, have two young children and were counting on the $3,400 payment to pay rent and other bills. The couple had H&R Block take their tax preparation fee out of their refund earlier this year, which means the IRS didn’t have their bank details.


‘‘I’m not happy with H&R Block. I probably won’t be doing business with them ever again,’’ Sielen said.

After he was unable to get through to anyone on H&R Block’s phone line, Sielen went on the IRS website and was told to enter the couple’s bank information. He did that but wishes H&R Block had been clearer about what to do. The company’s website says that ‘‘we are still waiting for answers from the IRS regarding the majority of Emerald Card holders.’’