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Monday, March 4, 2024

Stimulus payment answers: The beneficiary edition

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Recently, the IRS and U.S. Treasury began distributing the first round of stimulus checks to taxpayers across the nation. While millions of taxpayers began to receive their stimulus relief, many questions have gone unanswered for some. Retirees, vets and disabled Americans are asking stimulus questions and we’ve got a few answers here below.

I receive retirement or disability payments and I’m not required to file taxes, do I qualify for the stimulus payment?

The stimulus package passed by Congress offered relief to certain low-income citizens including Social Security beneficiaries, railroad retirees, veterans and others with disabilities. So if you didn’t file a 2018 or 2019 tax return because you weren’t required to file, you’re still eligible to receive your stimulus payment.

How much will the payment be?

Individuals will receive $1,200, $2,400 for married couples and an extra $500 per qualifying dependents under 17. The payments phase out for individuals who made over $75,000-$99,000 and $150,000-$198,000 for married filers. It’s reduced by $5 for every $100 between income limits and then eliminated completely.

I have dependents. How do I receive a stimulus payment for them too?

Non-filing beneficiaries who have dependents under 17 need to take additional steps. To receive payments for qualifying dependents, you’ll need to add any dependent information to the IRS non-filer portal to ensure they receive the economic impact payment you qualify for. If you didn’t do this by April 22, you’ll have to wait until the next filing season to receive the applicable payments for qualifying children. If you filed your taxes and claimed a dependent on your 2018 or 2019 tax return, the IRS will use that information to determine eligibility, calculate the correct payment automatically and send the payment for taxpayers and their qualifying dependents. 

What should I do to get my check?  

Most beneficiaries don’t need to do anything to get their economic impact payment from the IRS. Those who were required to file a 2018 or 2019 must have a return on file and the IRS will automatically mail or direct deposit the payment using the bank account or mailing address found on the most recent return.

Non-filing beneficiaries with no dependents will automatically receive their stimulus payments the same way they receive their benefits. The vast majority of payments will be directly deposited to a bank account, direct pay debit card and others will be mailed.

I still haven’t received my stimulus, when can I expect my relief to arrive? 

Earlier in April the government began depositing stimulus checks to those who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and had their direct deposit information on file. Payment disbursements started in reverse AGI order, so they were issued to those with lower income first. According to the IRS, Retirees and certain others should begin seeing direct deposits as early as this week but will continue to roll out over the next several weeks. If you’re receiving your check in the mail, it could take much longer. Checks are in the mail now but are expected to be delivered anywhere from now through September. If you want to track your payment or add direct deposit info visiting the IRS “Get My Payment” at IRS.gov will allow you to do that. 

Will stimulus money affect my benefits or next year’s taxes?

The economic impact payment is not considered additional income and thus will not affect your benefits in any way. You won’t have to pay it back and it won’t lower your refund. The payment is actually an advance of a 2020 refundable tax credit, so it’s non-taxable and it won’t affect next year’s taxes in a negative way. 

What else should I know?

You’ve got to watch for scams! There’s a lot of crooks and scoundrels out there looking to bamboozle taxpayers out of their stimulus money. So be careful. Con artists prey on the vulnerable, and in times like these, older members of society are often a target. Remember that no one should be calling you to sign up for your check or to get your personal information. The IRS or U.S. Treasury will never call you, email you or contact you on social media about your stimulus check. If you’re contacted by a potential scammer, disconnect and don’t entertain them. You shouldn’t engage with a scammer even if you think you know that it’s a scam. 

For official, up-to-date information about the economic impact payment visit IRS.gov/Coronavirus. To update payment information or track your payment visit IRS.gov and click the “Where’s My Payment” link. To learn more about scams and reporting visit IRS.gov and visit the Report Phishing and Online Scams page.

Brittany Sabalza, enrolled agent, is director of continuing education for Pro Tax Solutions Indianapolis and a tax columnist.

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