What to do if a child tax credit check is stolen or lost

Here’s what you need to do to recover a missing child tax credit payment.

On December 2, a New Jersey letter carrier was arrested for allegedly stealing federal stimulus checks. In addition to stealing checks, the postman also stole credit cards and shared them with friends. Although he has since been arrested, thefts are occurring.

If you’re not sure what to do if a child tax credit check is lost, damaged, or stolen, this article walks you through the recovery process.

IRS Rules

If a check issued by the federal government, such as a stimulus or child tax credit (CTC) payment, is lost, stolen, or destroyed, the IRS has a plan to help you recover the missing funds. The tricky part is that you have to be patient and follow the IRS’s instructions carefully.

Do not panic

If you’ve ever received child tax credit checks as expected, but are now missing one, there may be several simple explanations, including:

  • Change in your living or banking situation. If past checks were mailed to your home and you’ve recently moved, it’s just that the IRS doesn’t know where to find you. If previous checks were deposited directly into your bank account, have you recently changed banks? If you have moved or changed banks, use the IRS Child Tax Credit Update Portal to let them know. It might be too late to expect a mid-December payment to find its way to your new address or new bank, but if the CTC is extended until 2022, you’ll want the IRS has your up-to-date information. In the meantime, keep in mind that you can claim any missed payments when you file your 2021 tax return.
  • Recent updates. If you recently made updates through the IRS portal, the IRS can still process the changes.
  • Service slower than usual. The postal service may take longer than usual to process and deliver your check. Similarly, your bank may take longer than expected to process the most recent direct deposit to your account.

First of all

According to the IRS, you can log into the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to view the history of your processed payments. If the IRS has already sent your check, it will appear there. Otherwise, you know the IRS is still processing the payment. If the CTC portal says the check has been delivered, check your address and banking information to make sure it is correct.

To note: You will have to be registered with the IRS to check your payment history through the portal. If you haven’t yet registered, it’s easy to do from home as long as you have photo ID and the ability to upload a photo of your ID to your computer.

Leave time

Because there are several reasons your check may be delayed, the IRS asks you to wait before contacting them. Here’s how long you should wait before contacting the IRS for help:

Trace your funds

After the appropriate amount of time has elapsed, initiate a track by call the IRS at (800) 919-9835 or (800) 829-1040. If you prefer not to call, fill in IRS Form 3911, Taxpayer Return Regarding Refund. Send the form to the IRS service center in your area. You can find a list of IRS mailing addresses at this page. Use the drop-down menu to open Q F3. Near the bottom are the addresses you need.

If you are requesting a trace over the phone, do not confuse the problem by submitting Form 3911 as well.

Don’t be intimidated by the complexity of Form 3911. There are four critical points to keep in mind:

  1. At the top of Form 3911, write “AdvCTCPMT” (for payment of the advanced child tax credit). This will let the IRS know what type of payment you want to track. Next to AdvCTCPMT, enter the month (s) you are looking for. For example, if you missed the September payment, write AdvCTCPMT-September.
  2. Don’t worry about filling out the top section of the form. The IRS will fill it out after making a trace. Complete sections I, II and III.
  3. Point 7 (under section I) asks for the type of declaration. Even if you are not filing a tax return, check the “Individual” box. Enter “2021” as the tax period and leave nothing next to “filing date”.
  4. If you are filing taxes jointly, you and your partner must sign the form.

2 months later

The IRS reports that it can take up to six weeks to search and provide a response. If you plan to file 2021 taxes in January, you might be better off claiming the missed payment (s) when filing. If you typically file taxes later in the year, contacting the IRS now is your best bet.

Your missing check is much more likely to be the result of an innocent mistake rather than a sneaky-eyed check thief. No matter how the check was lost, destroyed or stolen, you are entitled to your CTC funds. It is simply a matter of informing the IRS of the amount owed to you.

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