Consumers eager to receive their “stimulus” check from the government’s historic coronavirus aid package need to make sure they are up to date on their taxes.
Distributions will come via the IRS, which will use 2019 taxpayer forms to determine how much a person’s check should be and where the checks should be sent. If 2019 taxes have yet to be filed, the IRS will use information from taxpayers’ 2018 forms.
So if you haven’t filed taxes yet for one of those years, now is a good time.
This step is especially important for low-income cititzen who don’t typically file taxes. In that case they still need to file a form. Individuals receiving non-taxable income, such as social security, will still receive a check.
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It’s not necessary to download special software or use a tax preparer. The IRS has two paths for free filing options, those making under $69,000 (down to zero) and those making above $69,000. Both can be found on IRS.gov.
Individuals making up to $75,000 a year will receive a check for $1,200, with an additional $500 per child. The payments progressively decrease for individuals making more than $75,000, with an income cap of $99,000.
Americans should start getting checks within three weeks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday. By comparison, the IRS took three months to distribute checks in 2009 to battle the Great Recession.
Some experts say that due to budget cuts and “obsolete technology,” the IRS will need months, not weeks, to send out payments.
“I don’t think any of the policymakers have given any thought to the practical implications of actually doing this. The IRS doesn’t have the resources to do it,” Howard Gleckman, a senior analyst at the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center, told Reuters.
Those people who were planning on receiving a paper check and have moved since filing their last return should submit a change of address form, which normally takes 4-6 weeks to process.
Taxpayers can get their checks a little faster if they’ve signed up for direct deposit with the IRS.
In order to register for direct deposit, people should indicate it as the refund method on their tax form. To change a bank account or routing number for the deposit, call the IRS customer service line at 800-829-1040.
The IRS has set up a special coronavirus landing page on its website, which it will update as more information becomes available. Currently the web page says, “Stimulus payment checks: No information available yet. No sign-up needed. Instead of calling, please check back for updates.”
Per the bill, “For the vast majority of Americans, no action on their part will be required in order to receive a rebate check. This includes many low-income individuals who file a tax return in order to take advantage of the refundable earned income tax credit and child tax credit.”
For those who have already filed 2018 and 2019 taxes and whose information is up to date and accurate, there is no need to do anything at all.