A Short Guide On How to Receive Your CARES Stimulus Check
(This post was updated on May 12, 2020)
The good news is U.S. expats can expect to receive a check, after President Trump signed the CARES Act into law on March 27. Among different provisions, the Act states how every American — including U.S. citizens living overseas — will receive a stimulus payment.
However, while we already covered an overview of this aspect of the law, it can be difficult for an expat to remain up to date with the tax administration and to make sure you will get paid.
Accordingly, in this post we list different ways the IRS can send your check as a non-resident American due to you under U.S. law.
1. A Direct Deposit With the IRS Is Already Set Up
If you have authorized a direct deposit for your 2018 or 2019 tax refunds, the IRS has your bank information and will proceed with a transfer directly to your account. No further action is needed from you.
2. Web-Based Portal
The tax administration is currently developing a web-based portal for Americans to provide their banking information. The platform should be ready for use in the coming weeks.
[UPDATE: The IRS has launched a special “Get My Payment” website for tax payers to track their Stimulus Payments and provide bank account information for payment via direct deposit. Payment Information may be submitted using An alternative form for those not required to file a 2019 Federal Return (e.g. total gross income did not exceed $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples) for 2019).]
3. Indicate Your Bank Information When Filing Taxes
As an alternative, if you are currently filing your tax returns you can simply use this opportunity to indicate your bank information.
To send a stimulus check, the IRS needs to register your income from 2019 or 2018. If you have not filed either of these returns, we highly recommend you start the process immediately for any past returns you did not submit.
An expat tax professional can work with you to “fast track” the process and provide guidance on how to receive your stimulus check. On March 30, the tax administration stated that “for those concerned about visiting a tax professional or local community organization in person to get help with a tax return, these economic impact payments will be available throughout the rest of 2020.”
Feel free to contact us if you need assistance with this filing.
4. Receive a Traditional IRS Check in Your Mailbox
Even if you didn’t provide the IRS with any bank information, it will still mail you a check. You need to make sure they have your current address on record. If not, you still have time to update it.
The IRS plans to issue paper checks starting May 4, and the first payments will be sent to individuals with the lowest income.
5. Social Security recipients will automatically receive the payment
The information that the Social Security Administration has on file will be enough for Social Security recipients to get their checks. According to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin: “Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return do not need to take an action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account.”
The Mailed Post-Payment Notice
Within two weeks of making a stimulus payment, the administration will mail you a notice. This is another reason why updating your address with the IRS is mandatory. The document will provide an overview of the payment amount, how it was made, and a phone number for reporting any failure to receive it.
The government clearly wants to reach the maximum number of Americans without requiring a significant lift from them. However, as a U.S. expat, you may be a bit disconnected from the U.S. tax administration and might need to take some action for them to be able to reach you.