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 (IRS) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced on April 1 that Social Security recipients will not be required to file a “simple” tax return in order to receive stimulus payments under the CARES Act. The announcement reverses guidance issued on March 30 by the IRS that individuals who haven't filed federal tax returns for 2018 or 2019 would need to file a simple return to receive payment. Many Social Security recipients aren't required to file tax returns based on their income levels.
"Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return do not need to take an action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
The IRS says it will use the information in benefit statements for Social Security recipients and railroad retirees, known as Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099, respectively, to generate $1,200 stimulus payments for those who didn't file tax returns for 2018 or 2019. Payments will be issued as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as the beneficiary would normally receive their benefits. The vast majority of beneficiaries receive benefits by direct deposit.
"AARP fought hard to ensure these payments would go to people who rely on Social Security and aren't required to file taxes,” said Bill Sweeney, AARP's senior vice president for government affairs. “It was just wrong to ask them to fill out extra paperwork, especially in the middle of this crisis, to get the benefits they need. We are very thankful the IRS reversed course and agreed to work with Social Security to get these checks out automatically without extra paperwork or red tape."
How it works
In response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the CARES Act calls for stimulus payments to be sent to most Americans based on the adjusted gross income (AGI) reported in their 2019 federal tax returns. Absent a 2019 return — the deadline to file 2019 returns was extended to July 15 from April 15 — the IRS said it would look at 2018 returns to determine eligibility.
Individuals taxpayers with AGI of up to $75,000 — and up to $150,000 for married couples filing jointly — would receive full payments ($1,200 per individual; $2,400 per couple). The payment amount shrinks by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single taxpayers with income above $99,000 and joint filers above $198,000 would not be eligible for a stimulus payment. In addition, there's a $500 stimulus payment to parents for each child under 17.
However, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who haven't filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019, and who will receive stimulus payments based on their 1099 benefit statements alone, won't be immediately eligible for added payments for dependents. “Since the IRS would not have information regarding any dependents for these people, each person would receive $1,200 per person, without the additional amount for any dependents at this time,” according to the IRS.
Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who have dependents under the age of 17 can use a new IRS tool online to register to claim the additional $500 per dependent they are eligible to receive. Registration must be completed online by noon ET on April 22. Otherwise the additional $500 stimulus payments can be claimed on 2020 tax returns.
What about SSDI, SSI and VA beneficiaries?
Recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) who do not typically file tax returns will automatically receive $1,200 stimulus payments based on their SSA-1099 benefit statements. The tax forms go out to Social Security recipients and SSDI beneficiaries every January.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients typically do not receive 1099 tax forms and typically are not required to file tax returns. On April 15, the IRS announced that SSI recipients will receive automatic $1,200 stimulus payments based on information already on file with the federal government. AARP had urged the IRS to make automatic stimulus payments to SSI beneficiaries without the burden of additional paperwork such as a tax return. Stimulus payments will be made in the same manner SSI beneficiaries receive their benefits normally: by direct deposit, paper check or Direct Express debit card.
Based on current IRS guidance, those who receive Compensation and Pension benefit payments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will also be sent a $1,200 check. Some low-income workers who typically are not required to file tax returns will need to access an online non-filers tool to register for a stimulus payment. Use the IRS.gov registration tool which can also be found by going to the IRS website and looking for “Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here.” The tool asks for basic information such as name, address, Social Security number and dependents. The IRS then confirms your eligibility, calculates how much you should receive, and sends a stimulus payment. For those people who enter bank account information, the IRS will deposit the payment directly into their accounts. Otherwise, the payment will be sent in the mail. Using the tool will not result in any taxes being owed.
Social Security beneficiaries who first began receiving benefits in 2020 should also use the non-filers tool to claim stimulus payments, since the IRS would not have an SSA-1099 tax form on file yet. New beneficiaries in 2020 who didn’t file tax returns for 2018 or 2019 won’t get automatic $1,200 stimulus payments. Enter your personal and bank account information in the non-filers tool to register for a payment.
Extra step to claim child stimulus payments
For recipients of automatic $1,200 stimulus payments, an extra step does need to be taken if you have a child under 17. Those who don’t normally file tax returns but who will receive a $1,200 stimulus payment automatically — Veteran beneficiaries, Social Security retirement beneficiaries, disability (SSDI) beneficiaries, survivor beneficiaries, SSI beneficiaries, and railroad retirees and survivors — should go to the non-filers tool on IRS.gov to register for an additional $500 stimulus payment for each qualifying child.
The deadline to register children through the non-filers tool for Social Security beneficiaries, including survivors and SSDI, was April 22. The deadline for SSI and VA beneficiaries is May 5. Non-filers won’t get the additional $500 per child this year without registering through the tool. The tool can’t be used to register children once the deadline has passed. For those who miss the deadline, the $500 child stimulus payments can be claimed next year on 2020 tax returns.
The IRS says beneficiaries receiving automatic $1,200 stimulus payments will not be able to enter Direct Express debit card account information into the non-filers tool. Either enter bank account information to receive a direct deposit or leave the bank account information blank to receive payment by mail.