IRS changes stance on stimulus and Social Security recipients

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THIS STORY IS AN UPDATE FROM AN EARLIER STORY POSTED ON WTVQ.COM AFTER THE IRS CLARIFIED ITS EARLIER STATEMENTS.

WASHINGTON (CNN/WTVQ)The Treasury Department, clearing up confusion, has announced Social Security recipients will not have to file a tax return in order to receive the economic stimulus payments the government is preparing to send out amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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It was unclear in guidance posted earlier this week whether Social Security recipients who don’t normally file taxes would have to in order to receive the money.

But the Treasury Department said Wednesday that those beneficiaries will automatically receive the money. The IRS will use the information that the Social Security Administration has on file.

Social Security recipients won’t have to take any action.

Those who normally receive their benefits directly in their bank account will receive the stimulus money in the same way. Others will receive a check in the mail — though it will likely take longer to receive the payment than those who use direct deposit.

The change came after Democratic lawmakers sent a letter Wednesday urging the Treasury Department to send the payments automatically to Social Security recipients — something the law gives the IRS the power to do.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri also criticized the IRS guidance, calling it “ridiculous” and saying the “IRS should follow the law that Congress passed.”

A $2 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Donald Trump last week includes money for the direct payments. Individuals are due up to $1,200 and couples will receive up to $2,400 — plus $500 per child. Updated guidance posted Wednesday said that Social Security recipients who don’t file tax returns would not receive additional money for children at this time because the IRS won’t have information on dependents.

But payments start phasing out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000. The amount will then be reduced by $5 for every additional $100 of adjusted gross income, and those making more than $99,000 will not receive anything. The income thresholds would be doubled for couples.

Generally, the income will be based on either your 2019 tax return — if you’ve already filed it — or your 2018 return. The IRS says that payments will go out automatically to those who authorized a direct deposit for their refunds, within three weeks.

Others may receive a check in the mail or may be able to enter their direct deposit information online — but there is little information about how that might work.

The Treasury is planning to develop a “web-based portal” in the coming weeks.