What is an economic stimulus payment? Will I get one?
Frequently Asked Questions
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Stimulus Payment Schedule
IRS Seeks to Return $266 Million in Undeliverable Refunds And Economic Stimulus Payments to Taxpayers
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WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is looking for taxpayers who are missing more than 279,000 economic stimulus checks totaling about $163 million and more than 104,000 regular refund checks totaling about $103 million that were returned by the U.S. Postal Service due to mailing address errors.
“People across the country are missing tax refunds and stimulus checks. We want to get this money into the hands of taxpayers where it belongs,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We are committed to making the process as easy as possible for taxpayers to update their addresses with the IRS and get their checks.”
All a taxpayer has to do is update his or her address once. The IRS will then send out all checks due.
It is crucial that taxpayers who may be due a stimulus check update their addresses with the IRS by Nov. 28, 2008. By law, economic stimulus checks must be sent out by Dec. 31 of this year. The undeliverable economic stimulus checks average $583.
The “Where’s My Stimulus Payment?” tool on this Web site is the quickest and easiest way for a taxpayer to check the status of a stimulus check and receive instructions on how to update his or her address. Taxpayers without internet access should call 1-866-234-2942.
The regular refund checks that were returned to the IRS average $988. These checks are resent as soon as taxpayers update their address.
Taxpayers can update their addresses with the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on this Web site. It enables taxpayers to check the status of their refunds. A taxpayer must submit his or her social security number, filing status and amount of refund shown on their 2007 return. The tool will provide the status of their refund and in some cases provide instructions on how to resolve delivery problems.
Taxpayers checking on a refund over the phone will be given instructions on how to update their addresses. Taxpayers can access a telephone version of “Where’s My Refund?” by calling 1-800-829-1954.
Taxpayers not sure of which type of check they may be due should check on a potential economic stimulus check first because of the looming deadline. See instructions above.
For Most People
The vast majority of checks mailed out by the IRS reach their rightful owner every year. Only a very small percent are returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable.
Through September 2008, the government distributed 116 million economic stimulus payments with only about 279,000 checks being undeliverable. Meanwhile, the IRS has distributed more than 105 million regular refunds this year with only about 104,000 being undeliverable. In both cases, well under one percent of refunds or stimulus checks were undeliverable.
Avoiding Future Problems
The IRS encourages taxpayers to choose direct deposit when they file their return because it puts an end to lost, stolen or undeliverable checks. Taxpayers can receive refunds directly into personal checking or savings accounts. Direct deposit is available for filers of both paper and electronic returns.
The IRS also encourages taxpayers to file their tax returns electronically because e-file eliminates the risk of lost paper returns. E-file also reduces errors and speeds up refunds.
People Can Avoid Common Errors that Delay Stimulus Payments
WASHINGTON — People who are awaiting an economic stimulus payment or who have yet to file can avoid common errors that may delay their payment. They also can use the IRS Web site to answer most common questions.
The Internal Revenue Service, which is still issuing economic stimulus payments, has been studying trends and common issues in filing errors and questions posed by people calling its customer service telephone lines.
The most common question posed to the IRS is from people wondering when they will receive their stimulus payment. The question can be answered easily by going to IRS.gov and using the “Where’s My Economic Stimulus Payment?” Web tool.
Here’s how to avoid common mistakes:
File only one tax return – People should file only one 2007 tax return. It takes the IRS up to 12 weeks to process paper returns and issue the stimulus payments. However, some people are filing more than one tax return in an effort to receive a stimulus payment, which could further delay their stimulus payment. The IRS is concerned there will be more multiple filings as the October 15 deadline approaches for filing a return in 2008.
List qualifying income – Some people are listing their monthly income instead of annual income. People must list their annual amount of qualifying income to be eligible for the minimum payment of $300 ($600 married filing jointly.) The qualifying income required by law is at least $3,000 in benefits from Social Security, Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement, earned income and/or combat pay.
Review Your Tax Liability – Some people who have either small amounts of tax liability or no tax liability are getting smaller stimulus payments than they expected or none at all. Generally, the law provided for a maximum stimulus payment of $600 ($1,200 for married couples) or an amount equal to a taxpayer’s tax liability, whichever was less. Tax liability is the net amount of federal income taxes paid after deductions and credits. If people had no tax liability but had at least $3,000 of “qualifying income” from specific sources, they would be eligible for $300 ($600 for married couples.) There also is a $300 payment for each qualifying child.
Amended return – Generally, people cannot file an amended return solely to get an economic stimulus payment unless they are a retiree, veteran or have other “qualifying income.” While amended returns will be processed to correct the income, deductions and income tax as appropriate, the economic stimulus payment amount will not be adjusted based on an amended return. If people do not receive a payment this year, they can claim it when they file their tax return in 2009.
Use Most Current Address – People must use their most current address in order to receive a timely payment. People who change addresses after filing should complete Form 8822 and a change of address card with the U.S. Postal Service. If the postal service is unable to deliver the payment, it is returned to the IRS.
People must file a 2007 tax return by October 15 in order to receive the economic stimulus payment this year, even if they normally do not have a filing requirement because their income is too low or not taxable. The IRS already has issued 90 percent of the economic stimulus payments but will continue to issue payments through December.
For people who filed a 2007 tax return eight to 12 weeks ago but who have not received a payment, the quickest and easiest way to track the status of the payment is to go to “Where’s My Economic Stimulus Payment?” on IRS.gov. The online tool will report when the payment has been issued. People will need their Social Security Number, their filing status and the number of exemptions claimed on their tax return to use this tool.
The IRS online tool also can report other issues, such as ineligibility because income was too high or the returning of an undeliverable payment to the IRS.
The economic stimulus payment begins to phase out for individuals whose income is $75,000 or more and for joint returns with income of $150,000 or more. To be eligible, a person cannot be a dependent or eligible to be a dependent of another person. To be eligible, an individual must have a valid Social Security Number unless his or her spouse serves in the military. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count as “qualifying income” for stimulus payment purposes.
The biggest mistake of all would be failing to file a 2007 return in order to receive the stimulus payment, especially for people who are eligible but who do not normally file a tax return because their income is low or nontaxable. People in this category can use a Form 1040A, provide a little information to complete the return and send it to the IRS by October 15. People also are urged to help friends, family or neighbors who may be in this category and unaware of their eligibility.
People who do not file a tax return by October 15 can still obtain their economic stimulus payments when they file their 2008 tax return. If they wait until next year to file, their payments will be based on their 2008 income and personal situations rather than on 2007 information.
Stimulus Payments – It’s Not Too LateWhat People Are Asking
Here are the top five questions currently being asked about the stimulus payments. Perhaps one of them is your question.
1) I have moved since filing my 2007 tax return. How will my payment reach me?
A. Filing Form 8822, Change of Address, with the IRS and a change of address notice with the U.S. Postal Service will help ensure that any mail from the IRS, including your stimulus payment check, is sent to your new address. If the check has already been mailed and you did not provide the IRS with an updated address, the check will most likely be returned to the IRS. You may call the IRS at 1-866-234-2942 to provide your new address so that steps can be taken to have the check reissued.
2) When will I get my stimulus payment?
A. It will generally take 8-12 weeks after you file your return to get your stimulus payment.
The IRS has already issued stimulus payments, both direct deposits and paper checks, for most returns filed by April 15. The IRS will continue to issue payments through 2008 for returns filed after April 15. Please allow 8-12 weeks after filing your tax return before checking on the status of your stimulus payment. To check on the status of your stimulus payment, you may visit Where’s My Stimulus Payment?or call the toll-free Rebate Hotline at 1-866-234-2942.
3) It has been more than eight weeks since I filed my return and my payment has not arrived. Can the IRS trace my payment to find out what happened to it?
A. Yes. If it has been more than eight weeks since you filed your return and your payment has not arrived, please visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistence Center or call the toll-free Rebate Hotline at 1-866-234-2942. A list of all Taxpayer Assistance Centers in your state is available at Contact My Local Office.
4) I heard that the IRS has finished sending the stimulus payments. Is it too late to for me to claim mine?
A. It’s not too late. There’s still time to file and claim your economic stimulus payment. The IRS will continue processing tax returns and issuing stimulus checks for much of the year. Social Security recipients and veterans who don’t normally need to file returns, as well as people who received extensions for filing, should file by Oct. 15, 2008, to make sure they receive a payment before the end of the year
5) I filed after April 15 and the payment date for my Social Security number has passed. How long will it take for me to get my stimulus payment?
A. It will generally take 8-12 weeks after you file your return to get your stimulus payment.
Updated March 5, 2008
Starting in May, the Treasury will begin sending economic stimulus payments to more than 130 million households. To receive a payment, taxpayers must have a valid Social Security number, $3,000 of income and file a 2007 federal tax return. IRS will take care of the rest. Eligible people will receive up to $600 ($1,200 for married couples), and parents will receive an additional $300 for each eligible child younger than 17. Millions of retirees, disabled veterans and low-wage workers who usually are exempt from filing a tax return must do so this year in order to receive a stimulus payment.
But there are more details to know about. Find out more here and visit this page regularly for the latest updates.
Issue Number: IR-2008-018
Inside This Issue
IRS Will Send Stimulus Payments Automatically Starting in May; Eligible Taxpayers Must File a 2007 Tax Return to Receive Rebate
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today advised taxpayers that in most cases they will not have to do anything extra this year to get the economic stimulus payments beginning in May.
“If you are eligible for a payment, all you have to do is file a 2007 tax return and the IRS will do the rest,” said Acting IRS Commissioner Linda Stiff.
The IRS will use information on the 2007 tax return filed by the taxpayer to determine eligibility and calculate the amount of the stimulus payments.
The IRS will begin sending taxpayers their payments in early May after the current tax season concludes. Payments to more than 130 million taxpayers will continue over several weeks during the spring and summer. A payment schedule for taxpayers will be announced in the near future.
Stimulus payments will be direct deposited for taxpayers selecting that option when filing their 2007 tax returns. Taxpayers who have already filed with direct deposit won’t need to do anything else to receive the stimulus payment. For taxpayers who haven’t filed their 2007 returns yet, the IRS reminds them that direct deposit is the fastest way to get both regular refunds and stimulus payments.
Most taxpayers just need to file a 2007 tax return as usual. No other action, extra form or call is necessary. This Web site will be the best information source for all updates and taxpayer questions.
In most cases, the payment will equal the amount of tax liability on the tax return, with a maximum amount of $600 for individuals ($1,200 for taxpayers who file a joint return).
The law also allows for payments for select taxpayers who have no tax liability, such as low-income workers or those who receive Social Security benefits or veterans’ disability compensation, pension or survivors’ benefits received from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007. These taxpayers will be eligible to receive a payment of $300 ($600 on a joint return) if they had at least $3,000 of qualifying income.
Qualifying income includes Social Security benefits, certain Railroad Retirement benefits, certain veterans’ benefits and earned income, such as income from wages, salaries, tips and self-employment. While these people may not be normally required to file a tax return because they do not meet the filing requirement, the IRS emphasizes they must file a 2007 return in order to receive a payment.
Recipients of Social Security, certain Railroad Retirement and certain veterans’ benefits should report their 2007 benefits on Line 14a of Form 1040A or Line 20a of Form 1040. Taxpayers who already have filed but failed to report these benefits can file an amended return by using Form 1040X. The IRS is working with the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that recipients are aware of this issue.
“Some people receiving Social Security and veterans’ benefits may not realize they will need to file a tax return to get the stimulus payment,” Stiff said. “To reach these people, the IRS and Treasury will work closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration and key beneficiary groups on outreach efforts.”
Eligible taxpayers who qualify for a payment will receive an additional $300 for each child who qualifies for the child tax credit.
Payments to higher income taxpayers will be reduced by 5 percent of the amount of adjusted gross income above $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for those filing jointly.
Taxpayers must have valid Social Security Numbers to qualify for the stimulus payment. If married filing jointly, both taxpayers must have a valid Social Security Number. And, children must have valid Social Security Numbers to be eligible as qualifying children.
Taxpayers who file their tax returns using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number issued by the IRS or any number issued by the IRS are ineligible. Also ineligible are individuals who can be claimed as dependents on someone else’s return, or taxpayers who file Form 1040-NR, 1040-PR or 1040-SS.
To accommodate taxpayers who file tax returns later in the year, the IRS will continue sending payments until December 31, 2008. The IRS also cautions taxpayers that if they file their 2007 tax return and then move their residence that they should file a change of address card with the
U.S. Postal Service.
The IRS will mail two informational notices to taxpayers advising them of the stimulus payments. However, taxpayers should be alert for tax rebate scams such as telephone calls or e-mails claiming to be from the IRS and asking for sensitive financial information. The IRS will not call or e-mail taxpayers about these payments nor will it ask for financial information. Scam e-mails and information about scam calls should be forwarded to email@example.com.