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Social Security Recipients to Get Stimulus Payments Without Filing Tax Returns

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En español | Editor’s note: The IRS is in the process of developing procedures for the issuance of stimulus payments to Americans, as called for under the CARES Act. These procedures are evolving, and the IRS has not yet worked out all of the details. AARP is monitoring the IRS closely and will provide the latest information on stimulus payments as soon as it becomes available.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced on April 1 that Social Security recipients will not be required to file a “simple” tax return in order to receive stimulus payments under the CARES Act. The announcement reverses guidance issued on March 30 by the IRS that individuals who haven't filed federal tax returns for 2018 or 2019 would need to file a simple return to receive payment. Many Social Security recipients aren't required to file tax returns based on their income levels.

"Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return do not to need take an action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

The IRS says it will use the information in benefit statements for Social Security recipients and railroad retirees, known as Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099, respectively, to generate $1,200 stimulus payments for those who didn't file tax returns for 2018 or 2019. Payments will be issued as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as the beneficiary would normally receive their benefits. The vast majority of beneficiaries receive benefits by direct deposit.

"AARP fought hard to ensure these payments would go to people who rely on Social Security and aren't required to file taxes,” said Bill Sweeney, AARP's senior vice president for government affairs. “It was just wrong to ask them to fill out extra paperwork, especially in the middle of this crisis, to get the benefits they need. We are very thankful the IRS reversed course and agreed to work with Social Security to get these checks out automatically without extra paperwork or red tape."

How it works
In response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the CARES Act calls for stimulus payments to be sent to most Americans based on the adjusted gross income (AGI) reported in their 2019 federal tax returns. Absent a 2019 return — the deadline to file 2019 returns was extended to July 15 from April 15 — the IRS said it would look at 2018 returns to determine eligibility.

Individuals taxpayers with AGI of up to $75,000 — and up to $150,000 for married couples filing jointly — would receive full payments ($1,200 per individual; $2,400 per couple). The payment amount shrinks by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single taxpayers with income above $99,000 and joint filers above $198,000 would not be eligible for a stimulus payment. In addition, there's a $500 stimulus payment to parents for each child under 17.

However, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who haven't filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019, and who will receive stimulus payments based on their 1099 benefit statements alone, won't be immediately eligible for added payments for dependents. “Since the IRS would not have information regarding any dependents for these people, each person would receive $1,200 per person, without the additional amount for any dependents at this time,” according to the IRS.

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