Under the Cares Act, stimulus payments must be made by Dec. 31. If people don’t receive the money by year’s end, they’ll have to wait to get the money until they file a 2020 federal return next year because the stimulus relief payment is actually an advance credit.
There have been a lot of glitches getting payments to the people who need the money most.
The IRS lost stimulus payment information for hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans who used a “non-filers” tool that the agency developed to send payments to people with incomes typically below $12,200 for individuals and $24,400 for married couples. The IRS failed to capture the dependent information.
IRS officials initially told the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which has been tracking federal actions in response to the pandemic, that up to 450,000 low-income people did not receive the money they were due for dependent children. During testimony to a Senate Finance Committee in June, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig revised the figure down to 365,000. A GAO report found that from April 10 to May 17, some stimulus payment calculations did not include additional money for qualifying children, even though the recipients had correctly submitted information about their dependents to the IRS.
Others missed deadlines the IRS set for using the non-filers tool to register to get the $500 payments. After criticism about the short deadlines and shutting down the ability of parents to enter information about their dependents, the IRS backtracked and reopened the registration, setting a new deadline for the end of September.
In an effort to get payments to people before the end of the year, the IRS has set two upcoming deadlines. Here’s what you need to know if you fall into either of the following groups.
Sept. 30: This deadline applies to federal benefit recipients who received their stimulus payments, but it didn’t include the $500 per qualifying dependent. Specifically, it impacts individuals who receive: Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement benefits, and Department of Veterans Affairs beneficiaries.
Don’t use the tool if you’ve already registered a dependent through the non-filer’s portal or you have filed a 2018 or 2019 federal tax return.
Oct. 15: If you don’t normally file a tax return and haven’t received a stimulus payment — up to $1,200 in aid for individuals and $2,400 for married couples — you have until Oct. 15 to use the non-filers tool at irs.gov to get the funds by year’s end.
Those who don’t have access to the online non-filers tool can submit a simplified paper return, which needs to be postmarked by Oct. 15. Here’s the link for step-by-step instructions on filing a simplified return. You’ll need to download either Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors if you’re over 65.
The instructions also explain how to claim the additional $500 payment for each dependent child under 17. Something to keep in mind, if someone else can claim you as a dependent on their return, you don’t qualify for a stimulus payment. But if you won’t be claimed as a dependent for this tax year, you may be able to claim the stimulus credit when you file a 2020 return next year.
To speed up payment, elect to have your money sent by direct deposit. Otherwise, you’ll get a check.
Do not use the non-filers tool if you plan to file a 2018 or 2019 tax return.
People who’ve already used the non-filers tool to provide information on qualifying children don’t need to do anything else. The IRS said it will automatically send you a payment.
The IRS says it is mailing letters this month to an estimated 9 million Americans who have not yet gone online to determine whether they’re eligible for a stimulus payment. The letters are being sent to people who haven’t filed a federal return for 2018 or 2019.
So far, more than 7 million people have used the non-filers tool to register for a stimulus payment, according to the IRS.
If you don’t fit into either of the two groups and still haven’t received a stimulus payment, you may be able to get help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS. TAS is assisting people in resolving certain issues related to their relief payments. Read: These are the five stimulus payment problems the Taxpayer Advocate Service will help the IRS resolve.
Reader Question of the Week
If you have a personal finance or retirement question send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line put “Question of the Week.”
This week’s answer comes from Ric Edelman, co-founder of Edelman Financial Engines, host of a weekly radio show and author of “The Truth About Your Future: The Money Guide You Need Now, Later, and Much Later.”
Q: Due to covid-19, my husband’s employer has canceled their contributions to his 401(k). Luckily, I just got a part-time job (up till now I’ve been a stay-at-home mother). I was planning to open an IRA and put all my earnings into it, as a way of compensating for the loss. I have been told that we can make the maximum contribution even if it’s more than my earnings this year. Is this correct?
Edelman: No, it’s not correct. You can only contribute to your IRA income you earn, up to the IRA limit. That said, you might be eligible to contribute to a Spousal IRA, based on your spouse’s income. Thus, in your case, you might need to open two IRA accounts, one as your IRA and one as your Spousal IRA.
The Spousal IRA limit is the same as for the IRA: $6,000 per year. So, if one spouse earns $12,000, both can have an IRA of $6,000 each. One account would be in the worker’s name; the other would be a Spousal IRA in the spouse’s name.
Some other points from the IRS:
— Each spouse can make a contribution up to the current limit; however, the total of your combined contributions can’t be more than the taxable compensation reported on your joint return.
— There’s a catch-up contribution allowed if you’re 50 or older, boosting the annual IRA limit to $7,000.
— Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. You can find the phase-out ranges for 2020 here.
Color of Money Online Chat
I’ll be away this week for the online discussion but please join me on Thurs. Oct. 8 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. (Eastern time). Please note the time slot is an hour later than usual.
All you have to do is send in your written questions and I’ll answer them during the one-hour chat.
Retirement Rants and Raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. You can rant or rave. Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”