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Social Security Beneficiaries: You Might Need to Act Now to Get Your Stimulus Check

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® – Apr 13, 2020 at 7:12AM

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Most Social Security recipients will be paid automatically, but there are some big exceptions.

The U.S. Treasury Department recently announced that Social Security beneficiaries who aren't typically required to file a tax return won't need to take any special action to get a $1,200 stimulus payment. Because of this, most Social Security beneficiaries don't have to take any special action -- the payment will be automatically paid in the same manner as their Social Security benefits. 

On the other hand, there are some Social Security recipients who may still need to take action, especially if they want to maximize the amount stimulus check. Here's a quick rundown of the latest guidance from the Social Security Administration (SSA) so you can decide if you need to file some information with the IRS. 

Social Security cards on top of money.

Image source: Getty Images.

Who needs to take action?

The Treasury recently launched a Web portal that allows people who don't typically file tax returns to register and provide payment account information for their Economic Impact Payments (the official name for the stimulus checks). According to the Treasury's, Social Security beneficiaries don't need to use it -- even if they haven't filed tax returns for several years.

However, Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul released new guidance that states that some Social Security beneficiaries should use the new non-filer tool, which can be found on the IRS's website, to enter their information.

One specific group that should register their information are Social Security beneficiaries who have dependent children under the age of 17. Simply put, if a Social Security beneficiary didn't file a tax return in 2018 or 2019, the IRS won't know they have dependents -- and each dependent under 17 would increase their stimulus payment by $500. In other words, a Social Security beneficiary with a 16-year-old dependent child could receive $1,700 instead of $1,200 by taking a few minutes to enter their information.

Another group that should head to the IRS's Economic Impact Payments page are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, especially those with dependents. Those on the other disability income program, SSDI, don't need to take action unless they have qualified dependents and haven't filed a recent tax return.

Finally, any Social Security beneficiaries who started receiving benefits after Jan. 1, 2020, and haven't filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019 need to use the IRS tool to provide their information. This applies even if there are no dependent children to report.

Make sure you get your full stimulus payment

Just to be clear, even if you don't do this, you can still get your full Economic Impact Payment. It just might not arrive anytime soon. In other words, if you're a Social Security beneficiary who hasn't filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and you don't let the IRS know about your dependents soon, you'll have to wait a while before you can get the additional $500 payment for each child.

To sum it up, there are three groups who should head over to the IRS's Economic Impact Payments page and register their information ASAP:

  • Social Security beneficiaries (including retirement, survivors, and SSDI) who have dependent children under 17 and haven't filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019.
  • SSI recipients, especially those with qualifying dependents.
  • New Social Security beneficiaries who didn't file tax returns in 2018 or 2019, regardless of whether they have dependents.

If you fit into one of these three categories, it's in your financial best interest to head over to the IRS Economic Impact Payments page and provide your information as soon as possible.

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