Consumers eager to receive their stimulus checks from the government's historic coronavirus aid package need to make sure they are up to date on their taxes.
Once the stimulus measure is passed by the House and signed into law, distributions would come via the IRS, which would use 2019 taxpayer forms to determine how much a person's check should be and where it should be sent. If 2019 taxes have yet to be filed, the IRS would use information from taxpayers' 2018 forms.
So if you haven't filed taxes yet for one of those years, now is a good time.
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This step is especially important for low-income Americans who don't typically file taxes. In that case, they would still need to file a form.
People receiving nontaxable income would still get checks and those receiving Social Security benefits.
It's not necessary to download special software or use a tax preparer. The IRS has two paths for free filing options, one for those making under $69,000 and another for those making above $69,000. Both can be found on IRS.gov.
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Individuals making up to $75,000 a year would receive checks for $1,200, with an additional $500 per child. The payments would 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 because of budget cuts and "obsolete technology," the IRS would 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.
People who were planning on receiving paper checks and have moved since they filed their last returns should submit a change of address form, which normally takes four to six weeks to process.
Taxpayers can get their checks a little faster if they've signed up for direct deposit with the IRS. To register for direct deposit, people should indicate it as the refund method on their tax forms.
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."
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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's no need to do anything at all.