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IRS sending information letters to Taxpayers

 

IRS sending information letters to recipients of advance child tax credit payments and third Economic Impact Payments

The IRS started issuing information letters to advance child tax credit recipients in December. Recipients of the third round of the Economic Impact Payments will begin receiving information letters at the end of January. Using the information in these letters when preparing a tax return can reduce errors and delays in processing.

People receiving these letters should keep themDo not throw them away. These letters can help taxpayers, or their tax professional prepare their 2021 federal tax return.

Advance child tax credit payments letter can help people get remainder of 2021 credit
To help taxpayers reconcile and receive all the 2021 child tax credits to which they are entitled, the IRS started sending Letter 6419, 2021 advance CTC, in late December 2021 and will continue into January. This letter includes the total amount of advance child tax credit payments taxpayers received in 2021 and the number of qualifying children used to calculate the advance payments. People should keep this and any other IRS letters about advance child tax credit payments with their tax records.

Families who received advance payments need to file a 2021 tax return and compare the advance payments they received in 2021 with the amount of the child tax credit they can properly claim on their 2021 tax return.

The letter contains important information that can make preparing their tax returns easier. People who received the advance payments can also check the amount of their payments by using the CTC Update Portal available on IRS.gov.

Eligible families who did not receive any advance child tax credit payments can claim the full amount of the child tax credit on their 2021 federal tax return. This includes families who don’t normally need to file a tax return.

Economic Impact Payment letter can help people claim the 2021 recovery rebate credit
The IRS will begin issuing Letter 6475, Your Third Economic Impact Payment, to EIP recipients in late January. This letter will help Economic Impact Payment recipients determine if they are entitled to and should claim the recovery rebate credit on their 2021 tax returns when they file in 2022.

Letter 6475 only applies to the third round of Economic Impact Payments, which were issued in March through December of 2021. The third round of Economic Impact Payments, including “plus-up” payments, were advance payments of the 2021 recovery rebate credit that would be claimed on a 2021 tax return. Plus-up payments were additional payments the IRS sent to people who received a third Economic Impact Payment based on a 2019 tax return or information received from the Social Security Administration, Railroad Retirement Board or Veterans Affairs. Plus-up payments were also sent to people who were eligible for a larger amount based on their 2020 tax return.

Most eligible people already received the payments. However, people who are missing stimulus payments should review information on IRS.gov to determine their eligibility and whether they need to claim a recovery rebate credit for 2020 or 2021. This includes people who don’t normally need to file a tax return.

The Economic Impact Payment letters include important information that can help people quickly and accurately file their tax return.

What’s new and what to consider when filing in 2022

The Internal Revenue Service today encouraged taxpayers to take important actions this month to help them file their federal tax returns in 2022, including special steps related to Economic Impact Payments and advance Child Tax Credit payments.

Here are some key items for taxpayers to consider before they file next year.

Check on advance Child Tax Credit payments
Families who received advance payments will need to compare the advance Child Tax Credit payments that they received in 2021 with the amount of the Child Tax Credit that they can properly claim on their 2021 tax return.

Taxpayers who received less than the amount for which they’re eligible will claim a credit for the remaining amount of Child Tax Credit on their 2021 tax return. Taxpayers who received more than the amount for which they’re eligible may need to repay some or all of the excess payment when they file.

In January 2022, the IRS will send Letter 6419 with the total amount of advance Child Tax Credit payments taxpayers received in 2021. People should keep this and any other IRS letters about advance Child Tax Credit payments with their tax records.

Eligible families who did not get monthly advance payments in 2021 can still get a lump-sum payment by claiming the Child Tax Credit when they file a 2021 federal income tax return next year. This includes families who don’t normally need to file a return.

Economic Impact Payments and claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit
Individuals who didn’t qualify for the third Economic Impact Payment or did not receive the full amount may be eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit based on their 2021 tax information. They’ll need to file a 2021 tax return, even if they don’t usually file, to claim the credit.

Individuals will also need the amount of their third Economic Impact Payment and any Plus-Up Payments received to calculate their correct 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit amount when they file their tax return. Ensuring they use the correct payment amounts will help them avoid a processing delay that may slow their refund.

In early 2022, the IRS will send Letter 6475 that contains the total amount of the third Economic Impact Payment and any Plus-Up Payments received. People should keep this and any other IRS letters about their stimulus payments with other tax records. Individuals can also log in to their IRS.gov Online Account to securely access their Economic Impact Payment amounts.

Charitable deduction changes
Taxpayers who don’t itemize deductions may qualify to take a charitable deduction of up to $600 for married taxpayers filing joint returns and up to $300 for all other filers for cash contributions made in 2021 to qualifying organizations. For more information, read Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

Get banked to get ready to direct deposit
Direct deposit gives taxpayers access to their refund faster than a paper check. Those without a bank account can learn how to open an account at an FDIC-insured bank or through the National Credit Union Locator Tool. Veterans should see the Veterans Benefits Banking Program for access to financial services at participating banks.

Special tax deduction for people who give up to $600 to charity

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers that a special tax provision will allow more Americans to easily deduct up to $600 in donations to qualifying charities on their 2021 federal income tax return.

Ordinarily, people who choose to take the standard deduction cannot claim a deduction for their charitable contributions. But a temporary law change now permits them to claim a limited deduction on their 2021 federal income tax returns for cash contributions made to qualifying charitable organizations. Nearly nine in 10 taxpayers now take the standard deduction and could potentially qualify.

Under this provision, individual tax filers, including married individuals filing separate returns, can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made to qualifying charities during 2021. The maximum deduction is increased to $600 for married individuals filing joint returns.

Included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted in March 2020, a more limited version of this temporary tax benefit originally only applied to tax-year 2020. The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, enacted last December, generally extended it through the end of 2021.

Cash contributions include those made by check, credit card or debit card as well as amounts incurred by an individual for unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses in connection with their volunteer services to a qualifying charitable organization. Cash contributions don’t include the value of volunteer services, securities, household items or other property.

The IRS reminds taxpayers to make sure they’re donating to a recognized charity. To receive a deduction, taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity. To check the status of a charity, they can use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.

Cash contributions to most charitable organizations qualify. But contributions made either to supporting organizations or to establish or maintain a donor advised fund do not. Contributions carried forward from prior years do not qualify, nor do contributions to most private foundations and most cash contributions to charitable remainder trusts.

In general, a donor-advised fund is a fund or account maintained by a charity in which a donor can, because of being a donor, advise the fund on how to distribute or invest amounts contributed by the donor and held in the fund. A supporting organization is a charity that carries out its exempt purposes by supporting other exempt organizations, usually other public charities.

Keep good records
Special recordkeeping rules apply to any taxpayer claiming a charitable contribution deduction. Usually, this includes obtaining an acknowledgment letter from the charity before filing a return and retaining a cancelled check or credit card receipt for contributions of cash.

For details on the recordkeeping rules for substantiating gifts to charity, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov.

Remind families about the Child Tax Credit
Besides  the special charitable contribution deduction, the IRS also encourages employers to help get the word out about the advanced payments of the Child Tax Credit because they have direct access to many employees and individuals who receive this credit. In particular, remind low-income workers, especially those who don’t normally file returns, that the deadline for signing up for these payments is now Nov. 15, 2021. More information on the Advanced Child Tax Credit is available on IRS.gov.

Tips to decide how and when to file an amended tax return

After filing their tax return, taxpayers may find they made an error or forgot to enter something on it. The IRS strongly recommends taxpayers use the Interactive Tax Assistant, Should I File an Amended Return? to help determine if they should correct an error or make other changes to the tax return they already filed.

Here are some common reasons people may need to file an amended return:

  • Entering income incorrectly
  • Not claiming credits for which they’re eligible
  • Claiming deductions incorrectly

The IRS may correct math or clerical errors on a return and may accept returns without certain required forms or schedules. In these instances, there’s no need for taxpayers to amend the return.

Taxpayers should also wait if they expect a refund. They need to allow time for their original tax return to be processed before filing an amended return. The IRS is automatically refunding money to eligible people who filed their tax return reporting unemployment compensation before changes made by the American Rescue Plan. It may take the agency more than 21 days to issue refunds for some 2020 tax returns that require review including incorrect recovery rebate credit amounts or returns that used 2019 income to figure the earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit.

Those who do need to amend their tax return might have questions about how to do so. Here are some things they should know, taxpayers:

  • May now use tax software to file an electronic Form 1040-X. At this time, only tax year 2019 and 2020 Forms 1040 and 1040-SR returns can be amended electronically and only if the original 2019 or 2020 tax return was also filed electronically.
  • Who cannot or chose not to file their 1040-X electronically should complete a paper Form 1040-X.
  • Mail a paper 1040-X to the IRS address listed in the form’s instructions PDF under Where to File. Taxpayers filing Form 1040-X in response to an IRS notice should mail it to the IRS address indicated on the notice.
  • Should attach copies of any forms or schedules affected by the change.
  • Need to file a separate Form 1040-X for each tax year. When mailing amended returns to the IRS, place each tax year in a separate envelope and enter the year of the original return being amended at the top of Form 1040-X.
  • Should pay additional tax owed as soon as possible to limit interest and penalty charges.
  • Must file Form 1040-X to claim a refund within three years from the date they timely filed their original tax return or within two years from the date they pay the tax, whichever is later.
  • Can track the status of an amended return three weeks after mailing using the Where’s My Amended Return? tool.

Taxpayers credits for other dependents

The credit for other dependents is a tax credit available to taxpayers for each of their qualifying dependents who can’t be claimed for the child tax credit. The maximum credit amount is $500 for each dependent who meets certain conditions. These include:

  • Dependents who are age 17 or older.
  • Dependents who have individual taxpayer identification numbers.
  • Dependent parents or other qualifying relatives supported by the taxpayer.
  • Dependents living with the taxpayer who aren’t related to the taxpayer.

The credit begins to phase out when the taxpayer’s income is more than $200,000. This phaseout begins for married couples filing a joint tax return at $400,000.

A taxpayer can claim this credit if:

  • They claim the person as a dependent on the taxpayer’s return.
  • They cannot use the dependent to claim the child tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • The dependent is a U.S. citizen, national or resident alien.

Taxpayers can claim the credit for other dependents in addition to the child and dependent care credit and the earned income credit.

Taxpayers can use the worksheet in Publication 972Child Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents. This worksheet will help them determine if they can claim the credit for other dependents.

Classifying workers as employees or independent contractors

It is critical for business owners to correctly determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors.

An employee is generally considered anyone who performs services, if the business can control what will be done and how it will be done. What matters is that the business has the right to control the details of how the worker’s services are performed. Independent contractors are normally people in an independent trade, business or profession in which they offer their services to the public. Doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, accountants, contractors, subcontractors, public stenographers or auctioneers are generally independent contractors.

Independent contractor vs. employee
Whether a worker is an independent contractor, or an employee depends on the relationship between the worker and the business. Generally, there are three categories to consider.

•  Behavioral control − Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does the job?
•  Financial control − Does the business direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker’s job. Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? Things like how the worker is paid, are expenses reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.
•  Relationship of the parties − Are there written contracts or employee type benefits such as pension plan, insurance, vacation pay? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

Misclassified worker 
Misclassifying workers as independent contractors adversely affects employees because the employer’s share of taxes is not paid, and the employee’s share is not withheld. If a business misclassified an employee without a reasonable basis, the business can be held liable for employment taxes for that worker. Generally, an employer must withhold and pay income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as unemployment taxes. Workers who believe they have been improperly classified as independent contractors can use Form 8919Uncollected Social Security and Medicare Tax on Wages to figure and report their share of uncollected Social Security and Medicare taxes due on their compensation.

Voluntary Classification Settlement Program
The Voluntary Classification Settlement Program is an optional program that provides taxpayers with an opportunity to reclassify their workers as employees for future employment tax purposes. This program offers partial relief from federal employment taxes for eligible taxpayers who agree to prospectively treat their workers as employees. Taxpayers must meet certain eligibility requirements and apply by filing Form 8952Application for Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, and enter into a closing agreement with the IRS.

Who is self-employed?
Generally, someone is self-employed if any of the following apply to them.

•  They carry on a trade or business as a sole proprietor or an independent contractor.
•  They are a member of a partnership that carries on a trade or business.
•  They are otherwise in business for themselves, including a part-time business.

Self-employed individuals, including those who earn money from gig economy work, are generally required to file an tax return and make estimated quarterly tax payments. They also generally must pay self-employment tax which is Social Security and Medicare tax as well as income tax. These taxpayers qualify for the home office deduction if they use part of a home for business.

How to use the IRS portal

Need to update direct deposit information?

Many families are asking how they can change the bank account where they get their monthly Child Tax Credit payment.

First, families should use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to confirm their eligibility for the payments. If eligible, the tool will also indicate whether they are enrolled to receive their payments by direct deposit.

For those currently with direct deposit, the tool will list the full bank routing number and the last four digits of their account number. This is the account where the IRS sent their payments so far. All subsequent payments will also be sent to this account. If necessary, the bank account to which the IRS is sending the payment can now be changed starting with the Sept. 15 payment. They can do that by updating the routing number and account number and indicating whether it is a savings or checking account. Note that only one account number is permitted for each recipient—that is, the entire payment must be direct deposited in only one account.

How to switch from paper check to direct deposit

If the Update Portal shows that a family is eligible to receive payments but not enrolled to receive direct deposits, they will receive a paper check each month. If they choose, they can now switch to receiving their payments by direct deposit.

They can use the tool to add their bank account information. They do that by entering their bank routing number and account number, and indicating whether it is a savings or checking account.

The IRS urges any family receiving checks to consider switching to the speed and convenience of direct deposit. With direct deposit, families can access their money more quickly. Direct deposit removes the time, worry and expense of cashing a check. In addition, direct deposit eliminates the chance of a lost, stolen or undelivered check.

Families can stop payments any time

Even after payments begin, families can stop all future monthly payments if they choose. They do that by using the unenroll feature in the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. Eligible families who make this choice will still receive the rest of their Child Tax Credit as a lump sum when they file their 2021 federal income tax return next year.

To stop all payments starting in September and the rest of 2021, they must unenroll by Aug. 30, 2021. For more information about the unenrollment process, including a schedule of deadlines for each monthly payment, see Topic J of the Child Tax Credit FAQs on IRS.gov.

For married couples, each spouse must unenroll separately. If they each choose to unenroll, they will receive no monthly payments. If only one spouse unenrolls, the other spouse will still receive monthly payments, but they will be half the normal amount.

Who should unenroll?

Instead of receiving these advance payments, some families may prefer to wait until the end of the year and receive the entire credit as a refund when they file their 2021 return. The Child Tax Credit Update Portal enables them to quickly and easily unenroll from receiving monthly payments.

The unenroll feature can also be helpful to any family that no longer qualifies for the Child Tax Credit or believes they will not qualify when they file their 2021 return. This could happen if, for example, someone else, such as an ex-spouse or another family member, qualifies to claim their child or children as dependents in 2021.

What is the Child Tax Credit Update Portal?

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal is a secure, password-protected tool, available to any eligible family with internet access and a smart phone or computer. It is designed to enable them to manage their Child Tax Credit payments, including, if they choose, unenrolling from monthly payments.

To access the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, a person must first verify their identity. If a person has an existing IRS username or an ID.me account with a verified identity, they can use those accounts to easily sign in. People without an existing account will be asked to verify their identity with a form of photo identification using ID.me, a trusted third party for the IRS. Identity verification is an important safeguard and will protect the user’s account from identity theft.

Anyone who lacks internet access or otherwise cannot use the online tool may unenroll by contacting the IRS at the phone number included in the outreach Letter 6416 or L6416-A they received from the IRS.

Who is getting a monthly payment?

In general, monthly payments are going to eligible families who:

  • Filed either a 2019 or 2020 federal income tax return.
  • Used the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov in 2020 to register for an Economic Impact Payment.
  • Registered for the advance Child Tax Credit this year using the new Non-Filer Sign-Up Tool on IRS.gov.

An eligible family who took any of these steps does not need to do anything else to get their payments.

Normally, the IRS is calculating the advance payment based on the 2020 income tax return. If that return is not available, either because it has not yet been filed or it has not yet been processed, the IRS is instead determining the payment using the 2019 tax return.

Low-income families can still sign up

It’s not too late for low-income families to sign up for advance CTC payments, as well as Economic Impact Payments and the Recovery Rebate Credit. People can get these benefits, even if they don’t work and even if they receive no income.

The IRS urges anyone who normally isn’t required to file a tax return to explore the tools available only on IRS.gov.

First, people can check their eligibility for the advance payments by using the advance Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant. Then, if they qualify, they can use the Non-filer Sign-up Tool to file a simplified return with the IRS. The Non-filer Sign-up Tool will be available until Oct. 15.

The IRS urges partners and community groups to share information and use available online tools and toolkits to help non-filers, low-income families, people experiencing homelessness and other underserved groups sign up to receive these benefits.

Child Tax Credit changes

The American Rescue Plan raised the maximum Child Tax Credit in 2021 to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and to $3,000 per child for children ages 6 through 17. Before 2021, the credit was worth up to $2,000 per eligible child.

The new maximum credit is available to taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income (AGI) of:

  • $75,000 or less for singles,
  • $112,500 or less for heads of household and
  • $150,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return and qualified widows and widowers.

For most people, modified AGI is the amount shown on Line 11 of their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Above these income thresholds, the extra amount above the original $2,000 credit — either $1,000 or $1,600 per child — is reduced by $50 for every $1,000 in modified AGI. In addition, the credit is fully refundable for 2021. This means that eligible families can get it, even if they owe no federal income tax. Before this year, the refundable portion was limited to $1,400 per child.

Retirement and taxes: Understanding IRAs

Individual Retirement Arrangements, or IRAs, provide tax incentives for people to make investments that can provide financial security for their retirement. These accounts can be set up with a bank or other financial institution, a life insurance company, mutual fund or stockbroker.

Here’s basic overview to help people better understand this type of retirement savings account.

  • Contribution. The money that someone puts into their IRA. There are annual limits to contributions depending on their age and the type of IRA. Generally, a taxpayer or their spouse must have earned income to contribute to an IRA.
  • Distribution. The amount that someone withdraws from their IRA.
  • Withdraws. Taxpayers may face a 10% penalty and a tax bill if they withdraw money before age 59 ½, unless they qualify for an exception.  
  • Required distribution. There are requirements for withdrawing from an IRA:
    • Someone generally must start taking withdrawals from their IRA when they reach age 70½.
    • Per the 2019 SECURE Act, if a person’s 70th birthday is on or after July 1, 2019, they do not have to take withdrawals until age 72.
    • Special distribution rules apply for IRA beneficiaries 
  • Traditional IRA. An IRA where contributions may be tax-deductible. Generally, the amounts in a traditional IRA are not taxed until they are withdrawn.  
  • Roth IRA. This type of IRA that is subject to the same rules as a traditional IRA but with certain exceptions:
    • A taxpayer cannot deduct contributions to a Roth IRA.
    • Qualified distributions are tax-free.
    • Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.  
  • Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees. This is commonly known as a SIMPLE IRA. Employees and employers may contribute to traditional IRAs set up for employees. It may work well as a start-up retirement savings plan for small employers.  
  • Simplified Employee Pension. This is known as a SEP-IRA. An employer can make contributions toward their own retirement and their employees’ retirement. The employee owns and controls a SEP.  
  • Rollover IRA. This is when the IRA owner receives a payment from their retirement plan and deposits it into a different IRA within 60 days.

What to know about making 2021 estimated tax payments

Small business owners, self-employed people, and some wage earners should look into whether they should make estimated tax payments this year. Doing so can help them avoid an unexpected tax bill and possibly a penalty when they file next year.

Taxpayers who earn a paycheck usually have their employer withhold tax from their checks. This helps cover taxes the employee owes. On the other hand, some taxpayers earn income not subject to withholding. For small business owners and self-employed people, that usually means making quarterly estimated tax payments.

Here are some details about estimated tax payments:

  • Generally, taxpayers need to make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe $1,000 or more when they file their 2021 tax return, after adjusting for any withholding.
  • The IRS urges anyone in this situation to check their withholding using the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov. If the estimator suggests a change, the taxpayer can submit a new Form W-4  to their employer.
  • Aside from business owners and self-employed individuals, people who need to make estimated payments also include sole proprietors, partners and S corporation shareholders. It also often includes people involved in the sharing economy.
  • Corporations generally must make these payments if they expect to owe $500 or more on their 2021 tax return.
  • Aside from income tax, taxpayers can pay other taxes through estimated tax payments. This includes self-employment tax and the alternative minimum tax.
  • The final two deadlines for paying 2021 estimated payments are September 15, 2019 and January 15, 2022.
  • Taxpayers can check out these forms for details on how to figure their payments:
  • Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov to find options for paying estimated taxes. These include:
  • Anyone who pays too little tax  through withholding, estimated tax payments, or a combination of the two may owe a penalty. In some cases, the penalty may apply if their estimated tax payments are late. The penalty may apply even if the taxpayer is due a refund.

Get an IP PIN to help stop identity thieves

The IRS and its Security Summit partners recently kicked off their annual summer campaign. This year’s theme, Boost Security Immunity: Fight Against Identity Theft, urges tax pros to step up their efforts to protect client data. An IP PIN is a valuable tool that can help in this effort and it is now available to anyone who can verify their identity.

An Identity Protection PIN is six-digit number eligible taxpayers get to help prevent their Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from being used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns. This number helps the IRS verify a taxpayer’s identity and accept their tax return. The Get An IP PIN tool  enables anyone who has an SSN or ITIN to get an IP PIN after they verify their identity through a rigorous authentication process. Taxpayers should review the Secure Access requirements before they try to use the Get An IP PIN tool.

For security reasons, tax pros can’t get an IP PIN on behalf of clients.

Tax pros who experience data theft can help clients by urging them to get an IP PIN quickly. Even if a thief already filed a fraudulent return, an IP PIN would still offer protections for later years and prevent taxpayers from being repeat victims of tax-related identity theft.

More things taxpayers should know about the IP PIN:

  • It’s a six-digit number known only to the taxpayer and the IRS.
  • The opt-in program is voluntary.
  • The IP PIN should be entered onto the electronic tax return when prompted by the software product or onto a paper return next to the signature line.
  • The IP PIN is valid for one calendar year.
  • For security reasons, enrolled participants get a new IP PIN each year
  • Spouses and dependents are eligible for an IP PIN if they can verify their identities
  • IP PIN users should never share their number with anyone but the IRS and their trusted tax preparation provider. The IRS will never call, email or text a request for the IP PIN.

Currently, taxpayers can get an IP PIN for 2021, which should be used when filing any federal tax returns during the year including prior year returns. New IP PINs will be available starting in January 2022.

Taxpayers who are unable to validate their identity online and have income of $72,000 or less, can file Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number. The IRS will call the phone number the taxpayer provided on Form 15227 to validate the taxpayer’s identity. However, for security reasons, the IRS will assign an IP PIN for the next filing season and the taxpayer cannot use the IP PIN for the current filing season.

Taxpayers who cannot validate their identity online, or by the phone, or who are ineligible to file a Form 15227 can make an appointment at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. They will need to bring one current government-issued picture ID and another identification document to prove their identity. Once verified, the taxpayer will receive an IP PIN in the mail usually within three weeks.