CORONAVIRUS

IRS Launches New Way For People To Get Coronavirus Rebates

The new online portal is a way for people to give the government bank account information if they don't normally file a federal tax return.

The Internal Revenue Service unveiled a new website Friday where people who don’t normally file tax returns can enter bank account information so they can receive coronavirus payments.

The new site is on IRS.gov. There’s a big blue button that says “Non Filers: Enter Payment Info Here.”

Since Congress passed a law calling for cash payments to most households in the U.S., people with low incomes haven’t had a simple way to deal with the requirement that they file a tax return to get the benefit.

Those who don’t owe federal income taxes are not normally required to file returns, so the requirement presented a new hassle to the 15 million households that didn’t file in 2019 ― and volunteer tax clinics are currently shut down.

Congress created the one-time coronavirus rebate payments in order to help people get through the social distancing measures ordered by state and local governments to slow the spread of the virus. More than 16,000 Americans have died from it as of Friday morning, and more than 16 million have lost their jobs and filed unemployment claims.

For people who filed tax returns for 2018 or already filed for 2019, and who have bank information on file with the IRS, the rebate checks should hit their accounts soon. Individuals earning less than $75,000 are eligible for $1,200 and couples earning less than $150,000 are eligible for $2,400, plus $500 per child younger than 17.

The new IRS portal ― which the agency created with help from tax preparation companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax ― will hopefully resolve two weeks of chaos for non tax filers, some of whom discovered that existing free online tax filing software rejected returns from people with no taxable income.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin described the new site as “a tool for Americans who are not required to file tax returns to make sure they receive their payment as quickly and safely as possible.”

After initially saying it would require everyone to file a tax return, the IRS said it would use Social Security data to deliver the payments to people receiving Social Security retirement or disability insurance. But people who don’t receive those particular benefits still have to file.

Democrats have demanded that the IRS automatically send payments to people receiving Supplemental Security Income or Veterans Affairs benefits, since the government should have their bank account info.

Dean Webley, a 53-year-old former health care administrator in Philadelphia, said the payment would be “extremely helpful” to her. She said she’s been getting by on savings since getting laid off two years ago.

With a 12-year-old son at home, Webley is eligible for $1,700 ― but the free tax sites wouldn’t let her file, and she didn’t have any luck with a separate new TurboTax program that is supposed to work better than existing free software.

“I haven’t paid this month’s rent yet,” Webley said. “Thank God all the bills are on moratorium right now, but a moratorium is not cancellation.”


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