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New Online IRS Tool Helps Non-Tax Filers Get Coronavirus Stimulus Checks

It's aimed at low-income Americans, vets, others who haven't recently filed

close up retired senior woman hand using laptop and calculator, IRS website text overlay

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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 launched a new online tool Friday that will let people who don't normally file a tax return register for their coronavirus economic stimulus checks.

The new web tool should solve a problem that has plagued the effort to get stimulus payments to nearly all Americans as mandated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which passed in March. The checks and direct deposits can be as much as $1,200 per person, or $2,400 for those who file joint tax returns. Parents with children 16 and younger are eligible for $500 per child.

Many Americans will get their payments automatically based on information gleaned from their 2018 or 2019 tax returns, while others will get checks or direct deposits because they receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits. But that still left out many Americans who are eligible to get a check. The new tool, developed jointly by the IRS and the Free File Alliance — a group of tax software companies that work with the IRS to help Americans prepare and e-file their federal tax returns for free — aims to fix that.

"People who don't have a return filing obligation can use this tool to give us basic information so they can receive their Economic Impact Payments as soon as possible,” said a statement from IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS and Free File Alliance have been working around the clock to deliver this new tool to help people."

Using the tool won't result in owing more taxes, the IRS says. When you enter basic information, including your Social Security number, name, address and dependents, the IRS will use this information to confirm eligibility and calculate and send a stimulus payment. You can enter bank or financial information to get your check deposited directly into your account — a much faster option than getting a paper check in the mail.

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Who should use the tool?

This new tool is designed for people who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 and who don't receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits. Those who might consider using the non-filers tool:

Lower-income Americans. Some people haven't filed a 2018 or a 2019 return because they are under the normal income minimums for having to file a tax return. This may include single filers who made under $12,200 and married couples making less than $24,400 in 2019.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, Social Security, SSDI,  Railroad Retirement beneficiaries and those who receive Compensation and Pension benefit payments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. All will get $1,200 checks sent automatically. If they have qualifying children under 17 years of age, they may use the new tool to claim the $500 payment per child.  VA and SSI recipients who started benefits in 2019 or earlier must use the tool by May 5 to claim their $500 dependent payment. Social Security and SSI recipients who started benefits in 2020 and didn’t file in 2018 or 2019 should use the tool to get their $1,200 checks and their $500 dependent checks. They don’t have to worry about the May 5 deadline, but they sooner they register, the sooner they get their checks.

What happens if I have filed 2019 or 2018 tax returns?

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 and chose direct deposit of their refund will automatically receive a stimulus check, starting next week. Those who receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits, SSDI or Railroad Retirement benefits but did not file a return for 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive a payment in the near future, the IRS says.

To help everyone check on the status of their payments, the IRS is building a second tool expected to be available for use by April 17. Called Get My Payment, it is designed to provide people with the status of their payment, including the date their payment is scheduled to be deposited into their bank account or mailed to them.

Get My Payment should also give eligible people a chance to provide their bank account information so they can receive their payment more quickly rather than waiting for a paper check. This feature will be unavailable if the payment has already been scheduled for delivery.

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