Stimulus update: More than $2 billion worth of stimulus checks are unclaimed; is yours?

Stimulus checks have gone out to Americans since March, but as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, a batch of checks totaling more than $2 billion remain uncashed, unclaimed or have been returned to the Internal Revenue Service.

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The Economic Impact Payment, provided for in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allowed for a $1,400 payment to millions of Americans. And while most people have received their payments, nearly 1.25 million checks have never been cashed, or were returned or paid back to the U.S. Treasury, the IRS says.

Pennsylvania, Vermont and Michigan are the states with the highest percentage of unclaimed checks per capita, according to IRS data analyzed by Newsweek.

Those who received checks in Arizona, Texas, Utah and California were the most likely to have cashed them, the report noted.

Here is what we know about uncashed or lost checks and how to return one if you have to.

How long do you have to cash stimulus checks?

Check holders have 12 months to deposit or cash the payments. After that time, the checks become void.

What do you if you have not received your check?

If you have not received one of the three stimulus checks sent out by the federal government, you can claim them on your 2020 tax return.

You will be filing a Recovery Rebate Credit. The process begins when you confirm your payment status online through the IRS “Get My Payment” tool.

If you find you have not received one or more of the payments, you need to file for the credit on your return. The instructions included with the tax return will help you to figure out the amount of any Recovery Rebate Credit to which you’re entitled.

Follow the directions on the 1040 or 1040-SR tax form, and on line 30, you can request those Economic Impact payments (stimulus checks).

However, you need to get the return completed quickly, as the deadline for your 2020 tax return is May 17.

What happens if you have lost a paper check?

If a CARES Act check is lost or hasn’t been cashed and is void after 12 months, an IRS spokesperson said recipients can contact the IRS to have them reissued.

What do you do if you want to return your check to the federal government?

Some people have to return a stimulus check because they received one in error, or they may have received a check for a person in their household who has died. Some simply do not want a check from the government.

If you need to return a stimulus check, the way it is done depends on how you received the payment.

If you received a paper stimulus check in the mail, then you need to write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check and mail it to the appropriate IRS location listed below. The IRS asks that you include a brief explanation for why you are returning the check.

If you received a paper check and cashed it, or if you had the stimulus payment directly deposited into your bank account, then send a personal check or money order made payable to “U.S. Treasury” to the appropriate IRS location listed below.

On the check, put “Third EIP” (Economic Impact Payment), and your taxpayer identification number or Social Security number. Again, the IRS would like a note saying why you are returning the check.

Here is where to send the checks:

  • Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont: Andover Refund Inquiry Unit, 310 Lowell St., Mail Stop 666A, Andover, MA 01810
  • Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia: Atlanta Refund Inquiry Unit, 4800 Buford Hwy., Mail Stop 112, Chamblee, GA 30341
  • Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas: Austin Refund Inquiry Unit, 3651 S Interregional Hwy. 35, Mail Stop 6542, Austin, TX 78741
  • New York: Brookhaven Refund Inquiry Unit, 5000 Corporate Court, Mail Stop 547, Holtsville, NY 11742
  • Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming: Fresno Refund Inquiry Unit, 5045 E. Butler Ave., Mail Stop B2007, Fresno, CA 93888
  • Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia: Kansas City Refund Inquiry Unit, 333 W. Pershing Road, Mail Stop 6800, N-2, Kansas City, MO 64108
  • Alabama, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee: Memphis Refund Inquiry Unit, 5333 Getwell Road, Mail Stop 8422, Memphis, TN 38118
  • District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island: Philadelphia Refund Inquiry Unit, 2970 Market St., DP 3-L08-151, Philadelphia, PA 19104
  • From a foreign country, U.S. possession or territory, an APO or FPO address, filing Form 2555 or 4563, or if you are designated “dual-status alien” by the IRS: Austin Refund Inquiry Unit, 3651 S. Interregional Hwy. 35, Mail Stop 6542 AUSC, Austin, TX 78741