Economic Stimulus - Signed into Law

On Capitol Hill on Thursday, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke testified that a $168 billion stimulus bill signed into law on Wednesday "could be helpful" as the economy ploughs through what he called a "period of sluggish growth." Senator Bernie Sanders, who helped strengthen the package in the Senate, said: "It is important that we move quickly. Obviously you want to put money in the hands of people who need it the most. They're the ones who are going to spend it the quickest." Senat

On Capitol Hill on Thursday, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke testified that a $168 billion stimulus bill signed into law on Wednesday "could be helpful" as the economy ploughs through what he called a "period of sluggish growth." Senator Bernie Sanders, who helped strengthen the package in the Senate, said: "It is important that we move quickly. Obviously you want to put money in the hands of people who need it the most. They're the ones who are going to spend it the quickest." Senate leaders, meanwhile, unveiled a housing market rescue plan in another effort to jolt the slumping economy. Under that proposal, consumer groups would get $200 million to counsel borrowers facing foreclosure. Local governments would get $4 billion in federal grant money to buy, fix and resell foreclosed properties to prevent neighborhood blight.



How does the stimulus package signed into law affect you? The Internal Revenue Service has prepared a useful summary:

The Treasury Department, starting in May, will begin sending economic stimulus payments to more than 130 million individuals. The stimulus payments will go out through the late spring and summer.

The vast majority of Americans who qualify for the payment will not have to do anything other than file their 2007 individual income tax return to receive their payment this year. The IRS will use information on the tax return to determine eligibility and calculate the amount of the stimulus payments. They will not have to complete applications, file any extra forms or call the Internal Revenue Service to request the payment, which is automatic. The IRS will determine eligibility, figure the amount and issue the payment.

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.

Basic Eligibility

The IRS will use the 2007 tax return to determine eligibility and calculate the basic amount of the payment. In most cases, the payment will equal the amount of tax liability on the return with a maximum amount of $600 for individuals ($1,200 for taxpayers who file a joint return) and a minimum of $300 for individuals ($600 for taxpayers who file a joint return).

Even those who have little or no tax liability may qualify for a minimum payment of $300 ($600 if filing a joint return) if their tax return reflects $3,000 or more in qualifying income. For the purpose of the stimulus payments, qualifying income consists of earned income such as wages and net self-employment income as well as Social Security or certain Railroad Retirement benefits and veterans' disability compensation, pension or survivors' benefits received from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007. However, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count as qualifying income for the stimulus payment.

Low-income workers who have earned income above $3,000 but do not have a regular filing requirement must file a 2007 tax return to receive the minimum stimulus payment. Similarly, Social Security recipients, certain Railroad retirees, and those who receive the veterans' benefits mentioned above must file a 2007 return in order to notify the IRS of their qualifying income.

The IRS emphasized that people with no filing requirement who turn in a tax return to qualify for the economic stimulus payment will not get a tax bill. People in this category will not owe money because of the stimulus payment.

Limitation

To be eligible for a stimulus payment, taxpayers must have valid Social Security Numbers. Anyone who does not have a valid Social Security Number, including those who file using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) or any other identification number issued by the IRS is not eligible for this payment. Both individuals listed on a married filing jointly return must have valid Social Security Numbers to qualify for a stimulus payment.

Eligibility for the advance payment is subject to maximum income limits. The payment amounts will be reduced by 5 percent of the amount of income in excess of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for those with a Married Filing Jointly filing status.

Individuals who pay no tax and who have less than $3,000 of qualifying income will not be eligible for the stimulus payment.

Additional Payments for Parents and Others with Qualifying Children


Parents and anyone else eligible for a stimulus payment will also receive an additional $300 for each qualifying child (subject to income phase-outs). To qualify, a child must be eligible under the Child Tax Credit and have a valid Social Security Number.

Anyone who is not eligible for the basic payment amount due to the phase-out provision or any other exception will not be eligible for this additional amount for children.

Special Circumstances for Recipients of Social Security, Railroad Retirement and Certain Veterans Benefits

Individuals who receive Social Security benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits and certain veterans' benefits may have to follow special filing requirements in order to receive the basic amount:

Those who have already filed a 2007 return reflecting qualifying income of $3,000 or more do not have any additional filing requirements and do not need to do anything more to receive their payment.

Those who have already filed a 2007 return showing less than $3,000 in qualifying income and did not list their Social Security, Railroad Retirement or certain veterans benefits should file a Form 1040X to list those non-taxable benefits and qualify for a payment.

Those who are not required to file a 2007 return but whose total qualifying income including Social Security, certain Railroad Retirement and certain Veterans benefits would equal or exceed $3,000 should file a return reporting these benefits on Line 14a of Form 1040A or Line 20a of Form 1040 to establish their eligibility. Please note the form lines just mention Social Security, but use these lines even if your only benefits were Railroad Retirement or veterans' benefits.

Notices

Most taxpayers will receive two notices from the IRS. The first general notice from the IRS will explain the stimulus payment program. The second notice will confirm the recipients' eligibility, the payment amount and the approximate time table for the payment. Taxpayers will need to save this notice to assist them when they prepare their 2008 tax return next year.

Anyone who moves after they have filed their 2007 tax return should notify the IRS by filing Form 8822, Change of Address, and also notify the Post Office.

Exclusions

Individuals who file Form 1040NR, 1040PR or 1040SS are not eligible for the stimulus payments. These returns are normally filed by Nonresident Aliens, residents of Puerto Rico and residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Residents of U.S. possessions will be receiving their rebates directly from the possessions.

Also ineligible are individuals who can be claimed as dependents on someone else's return.

Dividends, interest and capital gains income is not included when determining qualifying income. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count as qualifying income for the stimulus payment. Also not included in qualifying income are non-veterans or non-Social Security pension income (such as those from Individual Retirement Accounts).

Stimulus payments will be subject to offset against outstanding tax and non-tax liabilities in the same fashion as regular tax refunds.

In addition, the IRS emphasizes the stimulus payments will not count toward or negatively impact any other income-based government benefits, such as Social Security benefits, food stamps and other programs.

Information for Recipients of Social Security Benefits

The IRS and Treasury will be working closely with the Social Security Administration along with beneficiary organizations to ensure that all eligible individuals know what to do to receive a stimulus payment.

For more information, view FS-2008-16, Stimulus Payments: Instructions for Low-Income Workers and Recipients of Social Security and Certain Veterans' Benefits

Information for Recipients of Veterans' Benefits

The IRS and Treasury will be working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs along with beneficiary organizations to ensure that all eligible individuals know what to do to receive a stimulus payment.

For more information, view FS-2008-16, Stimulus Payments: Instructions for Low-Income Workers and Recipients of Social Security and Certain Veterans' Benefits

Consumer Alert on Rebate Scams


Taxpayers should be aware that there are identity theft scams involving the proposed advance payment checks, known informally as rebates to many Americans. The IRS knows of at least one telephone scam making the rounds which uses the proposed rebates as bait.