The United States Internal Revenue Service launched a website today to track coronavirus stimulus testing. However, some users get a hint that their payment status is "unavailable", and even after an official statement is posted online, they basically cannot know what is wrong.
The new IRS portal, Get My Payment, is designed to help people find out if they are eligible for one of the $ 1,200 relief checks that are sent to many Americans, and then enter bank account information for a direct deposit or hint let them know that the payment has been processed. The idea is to speed up the release of funds that many citizens urgently need. But the system has shown many people the confusing "payment status unavailable" error message since its inception, causing the phrase to be trending on Twitter and appearing in a number of messages on Reddit.
The only explanation for the error on the page is: "Based on the information we have, we are currently unable to determine whether you are authorized to pay". The link contains a long FAQ with the relevant information on the middle of the page.
According to this IRS FAQ, the message "Payment status not available" may appear here:
- If you are not entitled to a payment
- If you have to submit a tax return and did not submit it in the 2018 or 2019 tax year
- If you recently submitted your return or provided information about non-filers: enter your payment information on IRS.gov
- If you are an SSA or RRB Form 1099 receiver, SSI or VA power receiver
That .. is many different reasons. To make matters worse, "Payment status not available" is also displayed if you simply enter an invented combination of social security number, date of birth and address. So this appears to be a general collection error for the system, rather than a useful or actionable error message.
The IRS claimed this afternoon that its website was “functioning smoothly and effectively” and that 6.2 million taxpayers had received their status. But that's an incredibly frustrating design decision. The vague feedback makes people guess whether they should get a check at all, let alone whether this is delayed by their tax return or performance status. (If it is not clear that "We do not know if you are entitled to money", it means literally "We know that you are not entitled to money".)
Some Reddit posters speculate that the answer is a mistake or a sign that the website is overloaded. The agency tries to avoid overload by sending some people to a "waiting room" landing page. However, it hasn't ruled out that people may see the "Payment status unavailable" message by mistake. If you enter information too often, you can lock the system for 24 hours.
We left a message on the IRS media hotline in the hope of receiving more information. However, people looking for their payments do not even have this recourse, as the frequently asked questions repeat several times that you should not contact the agency directly.
The IRS set up an understandably simple system during a crisis, and some Verge employees had easy access to their status, even though at least one received the "Not Available" message. But while the world is full of nerve-wracking uncertainties, at least give us the comfort of a well-composed error page.