BY ORLANDO GOTAY
When the CARES Act was enacted, I hesitated to write about the Coronavirus stimulus payments. Official information changed daily, causing great confusion. Things have settled a little, so I feel comfortable commenting now. Again: information changes rapidly. This may change yet again!
For payment purposes, there are two main groups of eligible people within the stimulus “universe”: those who have filed returns for 2019 (and/or 2018), and those who have not (and are not normally required to file a return). They have different pathways to get paid.
If you aren’t required to file a return, the IRS asks you to go to their website (at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments) to enter your info in a special portal for non-filers. The page will ask for basic identifying info to ensure you are qualified, and for how much. The website allows for entering qualifying child info (remember, less than 17 years old) to get that part of the Relief payment ($500 per eligible child). Lastly, the website also provides for direct payment through your bank account, or a paper check to your mailing address, if that’s your choice.
For those who are required to file a return– the IRS will open another portal (actually it’s another section on the same web page above) in the coming weeks. You would enter bank information, much like the first portal. The IRS knows that many taxpayers file a return with no bank information for refunds. Here’s how you tell the IRS where to send your payment. Oddly enough, it seems that if you had banking info previously on file, there’s no way to update pre-existing banking information. Yes, I know. That seems odd, and it ought to be fixed.
Special categories of individuals: Recipients of Social Security payments (SSDI) or Railroad Retirement (that do not file returns) need not do anything. The government will deposit Relief payments directly. However, non-filer SSI recipients and Veterans Administration pension/disability recipients, still have to go to the first portal, unless the IRS chooses to find a way to direct deposit automatically. They could and should. There are still plenty of loose ends on Relief payments. One example out of many: it is still unclear if joint filers with a non-resident alien spouse (or joint filers with a spouse with an ITIN number) would qualify for payments.
One thing is sure: I’ve never seen so many people wanting to file a tax return. Ever!
Orlando Gotay is a California licensed tax attorney (Master of Laws in Taxation) admitted to practice before the IRS, the U.S. Tax Court and other taxing agencies. His love of things Mexican has led him to devote part of his practice to federal and state tax matters of U.S. expats in Mexico. He can be reached at [email protected] Facebook: GotayTaxLawyer or WhatsApp at +17604491668. This is just a general outline. It is informational only and not meant as legal advice.