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What you need to do to get your government stimulus check

The IRS and the Treasury Department say Americans will start receiving their economic impact checks within the next few weeks.

The payments are part of the $2.2 trillion rescue package signed into law last week by President Donald Trump aimed at combating the economic ravages of the coronavirus outbreak.

Most people don’t need to do anything to get the money. But some populations who don’t typically file returns — including senior citizens and low-income people who might not traditionally file tax returns — may be confused. The government urged them to file taxes and then later reversed course for certain groups.

The IRS and Treasury have updated their guidance on how to ensure you get paid. Here are the basics:

Who is eligible for the payments?

Anyone earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income and who has a Social Security number will receive a $1,200 payment. That means married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment — $2,400 — if their adjusted gross income, which what you report on your taxes, is under $150,000.

The payment steadily declines for those who make more. Those earning more than $99,000, or $198,000 for joint filers, are not eligible. For heads of household with one child, the benefit starts to decline at $112,500 and falls to zero at $146,500.

Parents will also receive $500 for each qualifying child.

What do I have to do to get the check?

For most people, nothing.

The money will be directly deposited in your bank account if the government has that information from your tax return. If you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes, the government will use information from your 2018 taxes to calculate your payment and determine where to send it.

I don’t usually have to file taxes. Do I still get a payment?


But here is where it gets a little confusing. The IRS and Treasury said Monday that people who are not required to file a tax return — such as low-income taxpayers, some senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and people with disabilities — will need to file an abbreviated tax return to receive the economic impact payment. It would provide the government basic details including a person’s filing status, number of dependents and direct-deposit bank information.

However, the Treasury on Wednesday reversed course, saying that senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file a tax return to get the payment.

Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts or sent by mail, however they typically receive their benefits.

Lawmakers and others complained that the requirement would create extra work and confusion for a vulnerable population, particularly as the government has their information and authority to use it to deliver payment.

The IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to generate payments for Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019.

Since the IRS would not have information regarding any dependents for these people, each person would receive $1,200 per person, without the additional amount for any dependents at this time.

The remaining groups — low income individuals, some veterans and people with disabilities — will still have to file an abbreviated tax return if they do not receive Social Security.

I haven’t filed my 2018 or 2019 taxes. Will I still get a payment?

Yes, but the IRS urges anyone required to file a tax return and has not yet done so for those years to file as soon as possible in order to receive an economic impact payment. Taxpayers should include their direct-deposit banking information on the return if they want it deposited in their account.

I didn’t use direct deposit on my taxes, what can I do?

The government will default to sending you the check by mail if you did not use direct deposit.

However, IRS and Treasury say that they will develop an online portal in the coming weeks for individuals to provide their banking information so that they can receive the payments immediately instead of in the mail. It has not yet set a deadline for updating that information.

Where do I do this?

The IRS and Treasury say the website irs.gov/coronavirus will soon provide information about the check, including how people can file a simple 2019 tax return.

I need more time to file my tax returns. How long do I have to get the payment?

The IRS says people concerned about visiting a tax professional or local community organization in person to get help with a tax return should not worry. The economic impact payments will be available throughout the rest of 2020.

This story has been updated to reflect a reversal of decision by the IRS and Treasury.

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