Stimulus payments: The check is in the mail
The check is in the mail. Or in your bank account. Or on the way. Or perhaps, on your card!
The monumental transfer of stimulus payments is now well underway. The IRS, Treasury and Social Security Administration have finally figured out how to organize the process of paying $1,200 to qualifying individuals and additional payments of $500 per qualifying dependent.
In the month after the CARES Act was passed, confusion reigned over how people would receive their checks. But more than 80 million payments were made in the first wave, and more are going out every day. Here's what you need to know:
--Tax return filers: If you filed your 2019 return electronically before April 10, that is likely to be the return used to generate your stimulus payment. If you included direct deposit banking information, you likely received your stimulus check already. Similarly, if you haven't filed for 2019 (returns aren't due until July 15) they will use your 2018 return to send your payment electronically to that banking information or mailing address on the return.
If your bank account was closed in the interim, the check will be mailed to the address on your most recent return. If you received your payment through your tax preparer's direct deposit account, the stimulus will go to that account. If you received your refund on a "debit card" offered by your tax preparer (Emerald card, Green Dot, TurboTax Card), as of this writing the IRS tells me they "haven't decided" whether to send your refund to that card or send it to your mailing address.
The IRS posted a new tool at www.IRS.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment. You can go there to find out where your payment was sent. And if it's not too late, you can register your direct deposit information. But bank information already on file cannot be changed.
Also, by law, you will receive a written letter in the mail within two weeks of the stimulus payment, telling you where it was sent and allowing you to register a complaint about misdirected payments or wrong amounts.
--Social Security retirement and disability beneficiaries: Your stimulus payment will automatically come to the same place you receive your monthly benefits. You don't have to register or file a tax return to get it. If you also happened to file a tax return with direct-deposit information for a refund, you might get your return at that account - even if your benefits are deposited into a different account. Check both places.
--Supplemental Security Income recipients: In an abrupt change last week, the Treasury department, IRS and the Social Security Administration agreed that those who receive SSI (which goes to the poorest members of our society) do not have to register to receive their stimulus money. Instead, it will be paid out directly to the card on which they receive SSI. It will arrive there by early May.
However, if they have dependents under age 17 who do not receive their own SSI benefit, they must register those dependents at: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here. This link is also where anyone who is not required to file a tax return, and not covered by the categories above, should register.
As you can imagine, dozens of other questions arise even as they payments are going out. Here are some other situations I have been asked:
--Those who owe child support: The law says that anyone who owes back child support will not receive a stimulus check. Even worse, if you file a joint return with a spouse who owes back child support to someone else, neither of you will get a stimulus payment, nor will the children who you list on your return! If it's not too late, the solution is to file separate 2019 returns and claim your children as dependents.
--Independent children over 17: Since children 17 and over do not qualify as dependents to receive the $500 check, many parents are removing them from the current return and allowing them to file independently to claim their own $1,200 check. Not only is it a bit late for this tactic, but it could impact deduction of college tuition expenses.
Here's a reminder that patience is required, even though many people desperately need this money. And that's The Savage Truth.
(Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and the author of four best-selling books, including "The Savage Truth on Money." Terry responds to questions on her blog at TerrySavage.com.)(c) 2020 TERRY SAVAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC