Personal Finance

IRS backs down and won't require Social Security recipients to file tax returns for stimulus checks

Key Points
  • A $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress last week includes payments of $1,200 to $2,400 for individuals and couples. 
  • But those checks are based on previous tax returns, which many Social Security beneficiaries do not file. 
  • Now, Social Security beneficiaries will get checks based on their 1099 forms and will not have to file tax returns in order to receive that money, reversing controversial guidance released by the IRS earlier this week. 
shot of social security card
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People who receive Social Security benefits and who do not submit tax returns will not have to file in order to get a government stimulus check.

The announcement by the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service on Wednesday night reverses earlier guidance that said those people would have to file simple returns in order to get paid.

"Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

The agencies will use information from Social Security beneficiaries' 1099 documents – Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 – for those individuals who do not have 2018 or 2019 tax returns on record.

"Recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits," the agencies said.

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It's welcome news for those beneficiaries affected, said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank.

"Now it's imperative that the Administration use its authority and the information it already has to do the same for very low-income seniors and people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income as well as low-income veterans who receive certain benefits from the Veterans Administration," Marr said in a statement.

The $2 trillion stimulus legislation passed by Congress last week included the authorization to use Social Security 1099 forms to deploy the payments.

The agencies' decision overturns rules released Monday by the IRS that called for individuals who have not filed tax returns to do so in order to receive stimulus checks.

That requirement drew widespread criticism this week by Washington lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as advocacy groups.

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