The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has revealed it will be sending letters to almost nine million Americans to see whether they're eligible to claim a $1,200 stimulus check.
Reminders will be sent to people who typically aren't required to file federal income tax returns but may qualify for the stimulus payment (opens in new tab) that first began landing in accounts in April. The checks form part of the CARES package announced in March to help American households weather the financial storms created by the coronavirus pandemic. The hope was that the payments, along with other support measures, would help those put out of work avoid having to borrow using personal loans (opens in new tab) or, in the worst case scenario, payday loans (opens in new tab), if they were struggling financially.
Around 160 million stimulus checks have since been sent by the IRS, yet millions more remain unclaimed. The IRS remains keen to track these people down, as it is thought that those most in need (opens in new tab) are among those yet to make a claim.
What does the letter say?
The latest letter from the IRS urges recipients to visit the special Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here (opens in new tab) tool on IRS.gov before the October 15 deadline to register for their payment. However, it also warns that receiving the reminder is not a guarantee of eligibility - to be eligible for a payment, people must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien, have a work-eligible Social Security number, and can't be claimed as a dependent on someone else's federal income tax return.
If you do qualify, individuals can receive up to $1,200, and married couples can receive up to $2,400. Those with qualifying children under age 17 at the end of 2019 are also eligible to receive an additional $500 for each qualifying child. Importantly, people can qualify for a payment even if they don't work or have no earned income.
Who will receive a letter?
The reminder, which is being delivered from an IRS address, is being sent to people who haven't filed a tax return for either 2018 or 2019. And having analysed its records, the IRS said these are mainly people who don't typically have a tax return filing requirement “because they appear to have very low incomes based on Forms W-2 and 1099, and other third-party statements available to the IRS”.
The letters are part of final efforts to ensure people receive the payment if they should, with the IRS reaching out to thousands of partner groups across the US, including those serving underserved communities, people experiencing homelessness, and those whose primary language isn't English.
Which states are receiving the most letters?
To ramp up awareness, the service has also released a breakdown of where the mailings are being sent.
"The IRS continues to work hard to reach people eligible for these payments," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "We are releasing this state-by-state information so that state and local leaders and organizations can better understand the size of this population in their communities and assist them in claiming these important payments. Time is running out to claim a payment before the deadline.
|State||Total number of letters|
How do you claim the stimulus check?
The registration deadline for non-filers to claim an Economic Impact Payment through the Non-Filers tool is October 15, 2020, but people who believe they are eligible have been urged not to wait to receive a letter and to register now. Another alternative is to wait until next year and claim the recovery rebate credit on their 2020 federal income tax return by filing in 2021.
However, the IRS also makes clear that anyone required to file either a 2018 or 2019 tax return should file the tax return, either using the IRS website or the best tax software (opens in new tab), and not use the Non-Filers tool. This is because the Non-Filers tool is specifically designed for those with incomes typically below $24,400 for married couples, and $12,200 for singles, including couples and individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Those unable to access the Non-Filers tool can file a simplified paper return following the procedures outlined on the IRS (opens in new tab) website.
Those claiming via the Non-Filers tool can speed up the arrival of their payment by choosing to receive it by direct deposit - if this option is not chosen, the payment will be made by check.