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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Economic Stimulus Plan: Many still eligible for payments

Thursday, July 10, 2008

SIKESTON -- There aren't any catches, and this isn't a scam. If you're a disabled veteran or retiree, the Internal Revenue Service wants you.

The IRS recently launched a new summer campaign to reach retirees, disabled veterans and low-wage workers who qualify for the economic stimulus payment but have not filed a 2007 federal tax return to claim it.

"Many of these people are eligible for an economic stimulus payment but may not know it or think it's too late to get a payment," said Michael T. Devine, IRS spokesman for Missouri and Kansas.

The most recent statistics, which were released June 19, indicate about 74 percent of people in this group nationwide are accounted for in the stimulus payments being sent, leaving about 5.2 million potential recipients, according to the IRS.

In Missouri, about 75 percent of individuals in this group are accounted for, leaving 113,000 potential recipients who could be eligible to receive up to $600, or $1,200 for married couples filing joint returns.

"These numbers are very accurate," Devine said. "Social Security and Veterans Affairs let us have records of who they sent checks to, and we're able to match those records on those who normally don't file a tax return."

Devine estimated 97 percent of these numbers are disabled vets and retirees.

Over 3,000 retirees and disabled veterans in the combined counties of Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard are eligible for an economic stimulus payment but haven't filed, according to IRS.

"Many of these people haven't filed a tax return because they're not required (by the government), and they're out of habit to do it," Devine said.

Normally Social Security and disability payments aren't taxable; however, the economic stimulus law passed in February contains a special provision allowing Social Security recipients to count those benefits toward the qualifying income requirement of $3,000 and thereby qualify for the stimulus payment.

Qualifying income includes any combination of earned income, nontaxable combat pay as well as certain payments from Social Security, Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement. Supplemental Security Income is not qualifying income.

As the 10th week of economic stimulus payments wrapped up Thursday, the cumulative total of payments nationwide was 104.9 million for a total amount of $86.1 billion, Devine said.

But there are thousands of Missourians who have yet to file a return to receive their payment.

"They think the IRS is just trying to get their information so we can track them. Congress passed this, and the President signed it into a law that allows the IRS to make payments. We want to make sure everyone who is eligible -- and wants money -- gets it," Devine said.

For those who don't normally file a tax return, the process is a very simple one, Devine said. Just download Package 1040A-3 (an eight-page informational package) at irs.gov.

"It's a very limited amount of information (required for filing)," Devine said.

For those who don't have Internet access, there are a number of volunteer tax preparation officials or local tax professionals who can help, Devine said. The other option is to call the IRS to get tax forms sent by mail at 1-800-829-3676.

Also there are no penalties for filing a tax return after April 15 as long as they're due a refund, Devine said.

"Certainly there are some who don't want the money, and that's their prerogative," Devine said.

In February and March, the IRS sent out a direct mailing to recipients of Social Security and disability checks reminding them of their eligibility to receive economic stimulus payments.

"We may be sending letters again," Devine said.

Remember the IRS is not going to call or e-mail anyone, Devine warned. However, once an e-mail relationship has been established by an individual with the IRS, correspondence with the IRS can continue through e-mail.

Those who receive stimulus payments should keep the second notice received with the economic stimulus payment, Devine said.

"The reason to keep the second notice is in case you didn't get the maximum allowance, when you file your 2008 taxes, we'll see how much you got. And if you didn't get the maximum, we'll recalculate, and you'll get more," Devine said.

Ruth Dockins, public information officer for Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging, said she was surprised by the large number of Southeast Missourians still owed money through the Economic Stimulus Plan.

"We had lots of calls (when the stimulus plan passed in February), and I assumed practically everybody and his brother had filed to receive a stimulus payment," Dockins said. "...We haven't had any calls lately."

If individuals who think they qualify and haven't filed to receive a payment are the least bit concerned about it, they should call somebody to explain about how stimulus payments work or call the IRS office, Dockins said.

"I urge people do do this because it's money they need to spend on something they ordinarily couldn't afford," Dockins said. "It's definitely a good thing."