The coronavirus pandemic has stricken hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, including thousands of deaths from the disease. Moreover, even among those who don't have the COVID-19 disease, economic hardships from work shutdowns and stay-at-home orders are creating huge financial uncertainty for millions more. In an effort to ease the monetary challenges from the crisis, the federal government decided to pay most Americans a stimulus check to help them make ends meet in these tough times.
However, there's been a lot of uncertainty about how checks will get to those in need. Especially among those who are on Social Security and often don't make enough money to have to file tax returns, many feared that they'd get left out of the initial distributions of stimulus checks. More recently, though, the Treasury has given some details about how those on Social Security will be able to get the coronavirus stimulus checks that they're entitled to receive. Here, we'll look at the current plan and what you can do to ensure that you'll get a check.
How stimulus checks will work
The recently passed stimulus bill established a mechanism for the federal government to send out coronavirus checks. Under the new law, qualifying adults get $1,200, while families with qualifying children will receive an extra $500 per child.
The law sets limits on how much income you can have and still get a stimulus check. To get your full check, you have to be single with adjusted gross income of less than $75,000, head of household with income of $112,500, or file jointly with income less than $150,000. If your income's above that level, then you'll lose $5 of your payment for every $100 in extra income you have.
It's in part because of the income requirement that the IRS is looking to have a tax return on file for every person it sends a stimulus check. As recently as a few days ago, the tax agency said that those who don't typically have to file tax returns will still need to file to get their stimulus checks.
How to make sure you'll get your check
For whatever reason, these limitations sent many Social Security recipients into a near panic, as they thought they wouldn't get a stimulus payment at all. The IRS immediately sought to reassure Social Security recipients and other affected groups of people, insisting that it wouldn't be difficult to get the necessary paperwork on file with the federal government. Treasury officials said that the IRS would come up with what they called a "simple" tax return that would have only as much financial information as the agency needed to determine eligibility and gather vital information like filing status, numbers of children or dependents, mailing addresses, and bank account numbers for direct deposit purposes.
Yet even though any special form would've probably been extremely simple, the Treasury Department reversed course late Wednesday and decided it would simply send stimulus checks directly to Social Security recipients who hadn't filed returns. The money would be directly deposited to bank accounts in the same way as monthly Social Security checks are.
What if you typically file a return?
For those Social Security recipients who do file tax returns, the typical rules will likely apply. The IRS will look at income levels on your most recently filed tax returns and make a determination about your eligibility.
If your income was low enough in 2019 to qualify for the full stimulus check, then you might want to file reasonably quickly. Even if it was high in 2019, you can still get your money later if your income this year is low enough to qualify -- you'll just have to wait until you file their 2020 tax returns. Technically, the stimulus check is an advance rebate of a refundable tax credit for the 2020 tax year. .
The only caveat is if your income will be much higher in 2020 than it was in 2019, then you might miss out on eligibility for the coronavirus check if you don't get it in the form of an advance payment. If you're in that situation, you'll want to make sure your 2019 return gets in quickly.
Get what's coming to you
The federal government wants you to claim a stimulus check, and it's doing whatever it can to get checks out quickly. If you're on Social Security, you should get your money as long as you qualify based on income. With the Treasury's latest reversal, you might not even have to do anything special to get it.