Senior citizens who no longer need to file income tax returns are waiting to learn how to sign up for the federal economic stimulus payments promised by the U.S. Congress and President Bush.
Letters went out to all U.S. taxpayers this month notifying them of their eligibility to receive between $300 and $600 under the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. To qualify for the one-time payments, individuals need only to file a 2007 tax return.
Many senior citizens, however, no longer need to file tax returns.
This year, in order to receive the economic stimulus payment, they do need to file a tax return for 2007.
"A packet will be going to Social Security recipients who did not file a tax return last year," said Kathy Romain, administrative assistant at the Kenai Senior Center. "It's supposed to be going out in late March."
The good news for seniors, according to the Internal Revenue Service Web site, IRS.gov, is that they only need to complete a few lines on an abbreviated Form 1040A. A sample to use as a guide is available on the Web site as well.
Besides filling out the identification and filing status lines at the top of the form, seniors need only fill in line 14a, which asks for the amount of Social Security benefits or tier 1 railroad retirement, veterans disability and death benefits. They also must sign the back of the form. These taxpayers also should write the words "Stimulus Payment" at the top of the 1040A.
People eligible for the stimulus payment are some recipients of Social Security, Railroad Retirement or veterans' benefits as well as taxpayers who do not make enough money to have to file a 2007 tax return. This can include low-income workers, those who receive Social Security benefits or veterans' disability compensation, pension or survivors' benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007.
These people will be eligible to receive a payment of $300 if they had at least $3,000 of qualifying income. The payment will be $600 for those filing a joint return.
Qualifying income includes Social Security benefits, certain Railroad Retirement benefits, certain veterans' benefits and earned income, such as income from wages, salaries, tips and self-employment. For those filing joint returns, only a total of $3,000 of qualifying income from both spouses is required to be eligible for the stimulus payment.
Also, although the IRS encourages seniors to file the tax return by the normal April 15 deadline, if they are filing simply to establish their eligibility for the stimulus payment, filing by Oct. 15 means the IRS can process their return and issue a stimulus payment before the end of the year, according to information on the Web site.
Romain said she hopes the IRS sends out individual information specific to each senior when the packets are mailed at the end of this month.
After April 1, she said people who need help applying for the stimulus payments can call her at 283-4156 for an appointment.
Receiving the stimulus payments will not affect people's eligibility for receiving temporary assistant for needy families, food stamps or Social Security.
The payments will not have any effect on eligibility for federal benefits.
According to the IRS, submitting a tax return to qualify for the economic stimulus payments does not create any additional tax or trigger a tax bill.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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