by Lisa Rowan, Forbes Advisor

While Americans wait on the edge of their seats for Congress to agree on the terms of a second stimulus package, up to 9 million people still haven’t received their first direct payment.

Time is running out to register to get a stimulus check if you don’t file federal income taxes. To remind you to do so by the Oct. 15 deadline, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is preparing to mail letters to about 9 million people who may be eligible to get an Economic Impact Payment. 

Letters are expected to be mailed starting around Sept. 24. A copy of the letter is available online via the IRS to help recipients distinguish it from a potential fraud.

The CARES Act authorized direct payments of up to $1,200 per adult and up to $500 per qualifying child. Most people who filed income tax returns for 2018 or 2019 received their payments this spring because their payment was based on their most recent tax return. 

But non-filers must register for a payment through the IRS. Potentially eligible non-filers include those earning $12,200 or less annually, and people who are unhoused. These people may have assumed they weren’t eligible to receive a payment because they didn’t pay federal income taxes.

The IRS will mail letters to people who haven’t filed returns in 2018 or 2019, but may be eligible to get a payment. The letters will be written in both English and Spanish. 

Letters Serve As Final Reminder to Request a Stimulus Payment

“We are taking this extra step to help Americans who may not know they could be eligible for this payment or don’t know how to register for one,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in a release today. “People who aren’t required to file a tax return can quickly register on and still get their money this year.” 

You don’t have to wait for a letter to check if you’re eligible for a payment. At any time up to and including Oct. 15, you can visit the IRS Economic Impact Payments portal to enter your non-filer payment information. If you’re eligible for a payment, you can choose to receive it by direct deposit or a mailed check.

Once the Oct. 15 deadline passes, you’ll have to file a federal income tax return in order to claim any stimulus funds to which you are entitled. If you were supposed to file a federal income tax return in 2019 but have not done so, you can file a tax return electronically (and most likely for free) to expedite your eligibility determination. But keep in mind that you may be responsible for late fees or penalties if you owe taxes for 2019. 

If you aren’t required to file a federal income tax return and you miss the Oct. 15 deadline, you may choose to file a 2020 tax return next spring to potentially claim a tax credit. 

The IRS has issued about 160 million Economic Impact Payments since distribution began in April, the agency reported.

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