SIKESTON -- Beginning in May, most Americans who earn an income will have a check delivered to their mailbox from the IRS. And the good news is, all they have to do to receive it is file their 2007 tax return by the April 15 deadline.
"Congress has asked us to give away a lot of money, and that's a kind of neat thing for the IRS," said Michael Devine, IRS media relations for Missouri and Kansas.
The rebate checks are all a result of a law passed by Congress last month to help spur the economy. Payments of up to $600 for individuals and $1,200 per couple will be provided, based on information contained in tax returns. Those with children will receive another $300 per qualifying child. Payment amounts will begin to phase out for those with an individual income above $75,000 or $150,000 for a married couple filing a joint return.
For most people, the only step required to receive the rebates is to file their federal return. However, there are some people who don't meet the requirements to do that who can receive the stimulus rebates.
Peggy Pearson, office manager of ExpressTax in Sikeston, said "anyone who does not normally file a federal return," needs to do so by April 15 to receive the stimulus rebates according to the timeline, which was released by the IRS earlier this week.
This includes people who draw Social Security, as well as recipients of certain veterans' benefit and Railroad Retirement benefits to reach the qualifying income of $3,000. However, Supplemental Security Income, also known as SSI, does not count as qualifying income, Pearson pointed out.
"They just need to bring in their year-end statement or award letter from the VA," said Pearson.
She said those who don't typically file may receive some other benefits. "In addition to the rebates, they might qualify for some earned income credits that they might not qualify for without filing," said Pearson.
Devine said this month, notices will e-mailed to everyone who filed a tax return in 2006, with information about the rebates and what the requirements are. To reach those who don't file federal returns, the IRS is working with the Social Security Administration, VA and other agencies to also send packages to those individuals.
"We want to make sure everybody knows about this," he said. "We're very concerned with how to contact the people who don't get a paycheck and don't get a tax return."
Another letter will be sent out later, to inform taxpayers what their rebate amount is, said Devine.
A common misconception by taxpayers is that the rebates are really going to come out of their pockets. "Some people are under the assumption that they will end up owing taxes," said Pearson. "But this will not result in the IRS charging them a tax bill. This is just a way to get a little money back in the hands of the public so maybe we can help to stimulate the economy."
Reactions to how consumers will use the money have been across the board.
"Many of them have said that they're going to pay bills with it," Pearson said, adding that also helps the economy. "But, there are some others that say 'Maybe I can take a little trip or something (with the money).'"
Dean Wooden, a financial advisor for Raymond James Financial Services in Sikeston, said the best way to spend the rebates varies on a case-by-case basis.
"I think that people need to prioritize what their situation is," he said.
One area that he highly suggested consumers look at is old debts, especially credit cards, for which they are paying high monthly fees.
"Look at what you're paying the most on and what's costing you the most and try to pay that off or pay it down first," he suggested. "I consider credit card debt very negative."
Devine warned that, as in most cases where money is involved, the rebates do provide an opportunity for scammers.
"There are a lot of people out there who are going to try to steal people's money," he said.
He offered a few tips for people to avoid getting scammed.
"We're not calling people and we're not e-mailing people," Devine said. "And we never, ever ask for your bank account number."
Those who do receive questionable e-mails are encouraged to send them to the IRS' phishing box. Those e-mails can be traced, said Devine.
With any other concerns, individuals can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-
Also, for those who want more information about the stimulus tax rebates, such as eligibility and expected rebate amounts, in addition to a sample copy of the letter they'll receive soon, go to www.irs.gov and click on "Rebate Questions?"
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Direct Deposit Payments
If the last two digits of your Social Security number are: Your economic stimulus payment deposit should be sent to your bank account by:
|00 -- 20||May 2|
|21 -- 75||May 9|
|76 -- 99||May 16|
If the last two digits of your Social Security number are: Your check should be in the mail by:
|00 -- 09||May 16|
|10 -- 18||May 23|
|19 -- 25||May 30|
|26 -- 38||June 6|
|39 -- 51||June 13|
|52 -- 63||June 20|
|64 -- 75||June 27|
|76 -- 87||July 4|
|88 -- 99||July 11|
Source: Internal Revenue Service