Where's my stimulus check?

May 15, 2008 5:18:26 PM PDT
If you are waiting for your economic stimulus check to be directly deposited into your bank account, you may be in for a surprise.Thousands of tax payers who thought the money would show up in their accounts will have to wait for a paper check.

The problem can be traced back to electronic tax prep software and a simple decision that is now delaying your check.

Like most Americans, Vonnie Conde is eagerly awaiting her stimulus checks from Uncle Sam.

"Right after my vacation I was waiting for it and it never got there," Conde said.

Conde thought her check would be sent by direct deposit to her bank, but there is a problem.

"I won't get it until mid-June because it is going to be mailed to me with a live check," she said.

The trouble started when Conde filed her taxes electronically just like millions of other Americans. Instead of paying for the service at filing, she chose to have the fee deducted from her refund. At the time it sounded like a simple decision, but it had unintended consequences for Conde and anyone else who did the same thing.

"I had my fee taken out of my refund versus paying it on a credit card or checking account," Conde told us. "Therefore I won't get direct deposit it will be a live check."

There were no warnings that payment options would affect the stimulus check delivery and taxpayers are only finding out now the checks will arrive later than anticipated.

"If someone opted to have their direct deposit for their refund, but then had the filing or tax preparation fees deducted from the refund, they will be getting a paper check and need to look at the paper check distribution schedule," said Lea Crusberg with the IRS.

Paper checks do not even begin arriving until May 16th and will be sent out until the middle of July. If you filed electronically, your stimulus check will be sent to your preparer who will then mail it you. It's estimated that 60% of Americans use electronic filing tools, so millions could be left waiting for the stimulus check they thought would simply appear in their bank accounts.

"Sometimes it is hard to track things down when you file electronically," said Houston CPA Bob Martin. "Then you have a payment going to a preparer who then has the responsibility of issuing you a check." I know it sounds confusing, but if you used tax prep software and asked to have the fee deducted from your refund, your stimulus check will go to your preparer, then to you. And again, those checks get sent out beginning Friday.

How long you have to wait depends on the last two digits of their Social Security number. That's how the mailing schedule is determined.

To see when your check might arrive, we have links to the IRS on my consumer blog.

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