The only thing worse than having money burning a hole in your pocket, it seems, is wondering where in the devil the money that's supposed to be burning a hole in your pocket is. Now that the IRS is finally mailing the economic stimulus checks (a.k.a. rebates) Congress authorized last February, taxpayers are getting increasingly antsy about when their money will arrive.
The planned payment schedule has been widely publicized. By now, in fact, most of the 45 million or so electronically deposited rebates should have arrived in taxpayers' bank accounts. The final batch -- billions of dollars for taxpayers whose Social Security numbers end in 76 through 99 -- is supposed to be sent no later than May 16.
The government began mailing paper rebate checks to 88 million Americans on May 9. But there's a big difference between when the first checks go in the mail and when the last taxpayer actually gets his or her money.
A dirty little secret
First, there's the unavoidable fact that it takes a few days, at least, for the Postal Service to get the check to your mailbox. More importantly -- and more frustrating for millions of taxpayers -- is that the IRS schedule applies only to taxpayers whose 2007 tax returns were processed by the agency by the April 15 deadline.
Tens of millions of returns filed during the week or so run-up to the deadline, and after it passed, aren't covered. And the IRS says the owners of those returns can expect to wait for their rebates a minimum of six weeks from the time they filed -- regardless of the last two digits of their Social Security numbers.
So, even if your Social Security number ends in 00, don't hold your breath waiting for a rebate if you filed close to the tax deadline. You might not get your money until June.
If you haven't filed yet, figure at least six weeks will pass between the time you send in your return and when the IRS sends you your rebate. (Late filers can speed up the process by filling in the direct deposit information on their tax return, regardless of whether they have a refund coming. That insures the IRS will electronically deposit their rebate.)
Checking on your check
If you're wondering where your money is, use the IRS Where's My Stimulus Payment tool to check. Answer three simple questions -- your Social Security number, the type of return you filed and the number of exemptions you claimed -- and you'll get a quick report of how big your rebate is and when it was, or will be, electronically deposited or dropped in the mail. If you're more than a week or so ahead of the trigger date, you'll be asked to check back later.