How to File for a Stimulus Check for an Inmate

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In 2020, the U.S. Congress approved the release of a $2.2 trillion stimulus to help the American people survive the economic damage brought about by the global coronavirus pandemic.

This stimulus includes EIP (economic impact payments) or stimulus checks. Most Americans are eligible for this, including inmates.

What is a stimulus check, and who are its intended recipients and beneficiaries? How can inmates receive this while in prison? Can a family member file a stimulus check for their incarcerated loved one?

Are stimulus checks and economic impact payments the same or different? If an inmate misses the deadline to register for the EIP, can they still file for a stimulus check?

This article discusses the stimulus check and the CARES Act (short for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), which are initiatives of the U.S. government to help its citizens during times of economic distress. As you read, you’ll learn how Americans, including those behind bars, can benefit from the CARES Act.

This write-up will also outline the procedures for requesting stimulus checks, including the forms to fill out and the filing deadlines.

Lastly, you’ll learn how to file for a stimulus check if the deadline has passed. This information is useful, especially in cases of incarcerated people where access to the internet and visitation hours are strictly regulated.

Filing a stimulus check for someone is complex, especially if the check owner is behind bars. There are many things to keep in mind and processes to go through.

Communication and coordination is the key to these kinds of transactions. You can visit for your online inmate and facilities locator and search its vast database of all jails, prisons, and detention centers in California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other states in the country.

How Do Inmates Get a Stimulus Check?

U.S. Congress approved the release of stimulus checks even to people in prison. However, the problem is that most incarcerated people have little to no access to the internet.

Some inmates may not even know that they can receive checks that can considerably help them and their families still reeling from the initial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Groups concerned with the welfare of inmates have taken unto themselves to inform people behind bars of the aid they can claim. However, processing stimulus checks for inmates is not easy.

The Answer

The way inmates can receive these stimulus money payments is to inform them that they can qualify to receive these checks. Also, they need to know that they must file the necessary tax return forms themselves or approve someone to do the filing for them for the claiming process to start.

What We Found

Having a loved one behind bars makes you aware of their prison facilities’ different policies and regulations. You’ll immediately feel the barriers limiting how you can show an incarcerated family member your care and support.

You’re not alone in experiencing this, and it’s also one of the main barriers inmates in prison and their families need to overcome to receive stimulus checks.

Many prisoners don’t know that they’re eligible to receive checks. However, if they do know, many don’t have ready access to the internet to visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website and file for themselves.

Furthermore, some may not even know how to fill out tax forms and don’t have someone ready to help them. Here lies the start of the problems encountered by inmates and their loved ones about unclaimed stimulus checks.

Where Are the Inmates’ Stimulus Checks?

Unclaimed stimulus checks are still with the IRS. Suppose you or your incarcerated family member hasn’t claimed their stimulus checks until now. In that case, it’s not too late to claim them.

You only need to file your 2020 or 2021 federal tax return form when the next tax year (2023) begins. accommodates late claim requests starting on January 31, 2023.

How Inmates Receive CARES Stimulus Payments While Incarcerated

Before you even start filing your tax return forms, you should ensure that you or your incarcerated loved one are eligible for this aid.

Here are the eligibility criteria to receive stimulus payments:

  • You’re a U.S. Citizen or a legal permanent resident of the United States.
  • You’re not married to someone or don’t have a child who lacks a valid Social Security number. An exemption to this is when an inmate’s spouse or husband served in the Armed Forces.
  • You have no income or have an income tax return reflecting these figures in the following tax years:
  • 2018 or 2019 income is below $99,000 a year (single or married filing separately) or below $198,000 if filing jointly for the first stimulus payment
  • 2019 income is below $87,000 a year (single or married filing separately) or below 174,000 if filing jointly in 2019 for the second stimulus payment
  • 2019 or 2020 income is below $80,000 a year (single or married filing separately) or below $160,000 if filing jointly for the third payment
  • You’re not claimed as a dependent of another person on their tax return

Can You Cash a Stimulus Check for Someone in Jail?

You can choose any of the following methods to cash a stimulus check:

  • Suppose you and the incarcerated individual have a joint bank account. In that case, you can direct deposit the stimulus check into that account and withdraw the payment.
  • Suppose the stimulus check was sent via debit card. In that case, you can get the card from an inmate with its 4-digit PIN (personal identification number), deposit the check at an ATM (automated teller machine), and wait until the check clears.

What Is the Recovery Rebate Credit?

A recovery rebate credit is a credit you can request when you fill out your 2020 1040 tax form, for example, to get the first and second stimulus payments you didn’t receive.

You can also request an RRC for the third stimulus payment you didn’t receive by requesting it on your 2021 tax form.

Forms and Documents

You should expect to file several tax forms when you request to receive these three stimulus checks for you or your incarcerated loved one. The forms that you’ll need to complete are the following:

  • 2019 1040 form (Individual income tax return form for 2019)
  • 2020 1040 form (Individual income tax return form for 2020)
  • 2021 1040 form (Individual income tax return form for 2021)
  • Form 2848 (Form for the power of attorney and declaration of representative)

How Can You Claim Stimulus Checks As the Recovery Rebate Credit on a Tax Return?

You can request an RRC for an unclaimed stimulus check on behalf of your incarcerated loved one through mail or electronic method.

If you use the mailing method, you only need to send the required forms and documents to the IRS. You can visit the IRS website at to find more information about the mailing addresses for each state.

If you’re using the electronic method, you can visit the IRS website and fill out an online version of the tax return form through IRS Free File.

Will the Amount of Stimulus Checks Be Reduced if the Inmate Has Overdue Prison Debts or Other Unpaid Debts?

Your stimulus payment can face deductions if you have overdue debts before receiving the checks.

Suppose you’re claiming the three stimulus payments as part of your RRC or tax refund. The payment may be reduced to pay for overdue child support payments and federal or state debts, including payments to creditors and debt collectors.

If you’re claiming the payment in check form, there may be some protection from deductions. However, if you’re receiving the payment through tax returns, then it’s not protected from debt deductions.

How Do You File an Inmate’s Stimulus Check That They Did Not Receive?

A stimulus check is also known as EIP (economic impact payment). If your loved one in prison didn’t receive either or all of the three EIP payments, you can file their tax return forms and claim the payments as an RRC. You only need to file the appropriate tax return forms to qualify for the three EIP checks.

You can refer to this article’s “Forms and Documents” section to get links to these forms.

You can request a blank 1040 form from an inmate’s case manager. They’ll write the inmate’s name and their doc ID on the 1040 form before giving it to the inmate.

A doc ID is a unique number assigned to an inmate upon entering prison. Also called prisoner ID number, inmate ID number, or BOP federal (Federal Bureau of Prisons) number, it is used for tracking and DOC inmate search purposes.

On the other hand, if you’ve already filed your tax returns, never file another tax return for that same tax year. You’ll only put your request at the end of the queue and wait longer for any resolution to your claim.

Suppose the IRS notifies you that they’ve already issued your stimulus payments, but you have yet to receive them. In that case, you can request a payment trace.

However, you should consider the following waiting periods:

  • Five days if payments were sent by direct deposit
  • Four weeks if payments were made in checks and sent to your standard address by mail
  • Six weeks if payments were mailed to a forwarded address on file with your local post office
  • Nine weeks if payments were mailed to a foreign address

You can also use the IRS Get My Payment tool to track your payments online.

Did You Miss the Deadline to Register for the Economic Impact Payments?

Being incarcerated can cause many drawbacks, including the inability to conform to deadlines due to restrictions inside prison.

If your loved one in prison missed the deadline to register to receive the three EIP payments, they could still claim them.

They only need to file their 2020 or 2021 tax return form when the 2023 tax season opens on January 31, 2023. You can also do this for them if they give you the authority.

Remember to fill out these tax forms correctly because any discrepancies may result in delays in your request.

Help People in Prison Get Their Stimulus Checks

As a family to someone in jail, you must help them get their stimulus checks. With your help, they might be able to get what’s due for them.

Internet connection inside prisons is heavily restricted, and inmates may not have enough time or opportunity to file the required tax forms themselves.

Furthermore, tax forms are complicated and sometimes need to be clarified. A regular taxpayer may need to learn how to file the 1040 form correctly. It’s best to help them fill out this form or have someone help them complete this crucial document.

The inmate has to provide information like earned income, adjusted gross income, and filing status. They should indicate whether they’re married but filing separately from their spouse, jointly, or as a head of household.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. The inmate filed taxes months ago and still hasn’t received stimulus payments. What should the inmate do?

The inmate can call the IRS at 800-829-1953 to use the automated system or 800-829-1040 if they want to speak with an agent.

However, if they filed married filing jointly, they can’t use the automated system to initiate a trace. They need to download and complete Form 3911 (taxpayer statement regarding refund) or have the IRS send them this form.

2. The inmate used the IRS 2020 or 2021 non-filer tool or filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return but hasn’t received stimulus check(s). What will the inmate do?

If they haven’t received the three stimulus checks, they can still claim them as a recovery rebate credit or RRC. They’ll have to file a 2020 tax return to claim the first and second checks, then file a 2021 tax return for the third.

3. What happens if the stimulus check was sent as a debit card instead of as a check?

You can use an inmate’s debit card. You’ll just need to get the 4-digit PIN from the inmate.

Suppose the debit cards can’t be processed in the inmate’s prison facility. In that case, the IRS advises returning the card to the IRS fiscal agent at the following address:

1007 North 97th Circle
Omaha, NE 68122

The debit cards will get voided, and you’ll need to file the tax forms again, including a letter explaining the situation and asking the IRS to send payments through checks, not debit cards.


1. What Is the CARES Act?
2. Where to File Addresses for Taxpayers and Tax Professionals Filing Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR
3. Electronic Filing Options for Individuals
4. Stimulus Check: Economic Impact Payment (EIP)
5. I lost my refund check. How do I get a new one?

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