Leader Blues

Friday, June 27, 2008

TOP STORY > >Many residents forget to claim stimulus check

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

More than 70,000 retirees and disabled veterans in Arkansas—including several thousand locally—are eligible for the government’s stimulus check but won’t get the money unless they file an income tax return.

Most of these people aren’t normally required to file an income tax return.

“We’re sure trying our best to ensure that no eligible person misses out on getting an economic stimulus payment,” said IRS spokesman David Stell. “The money is there for the asking, but people do have to ask,” Stell said, “by simply filing a 2007 federal income tax return. Many potential recipients need only file a simplified version of that tax return to get the stimulus payments on the way to them.”

Stell said the IRS figures about 8,069 Pulaski County residents, 1,237 in Lonoke County and 1,737 in White County, receiving either Social Security checks or veterans benefits, are eligible but have not filed a tax return for 2007.

Breaking it down further, the IRS believes there are 680 potential recipients in Jacksonville, another 680 in Searcy, 439 in Sherwood, 435 in Cabot, 272 in Lonoke, 251 in Beebe, 135 in Ward, 76 in Austin and 70 in McRae.

Doug Shulman, the IRS commissioner, said, “Many retirees and veterans do not normally file a tax return because their benefits are not taxable.

“This year, they must file in order to receive an economic stimulus payment,” Shulman said.

Stell explained that veteran’s disability payments are not taxable, and in many cases neither is Social Security.

“Generally speaking if half a person’s Social Security benefits plus their other income is more than $25,000, they have to file a return,” he said.

“To get a stimulus check, these people who normally don’t file need to by Oct. 15,” Stell said.

Shulman added that receiving the economic stimulus check should have no impact on other federal benefits being received by
retirees.

“The stimulus payment is not taxable,” Shulman said.

The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 generally provides payments of $600 ($1,200 for married couples filing joint returns or the amount equal to the 2007 net income tax liability, whichever is less) plus $300 for each qualifying child.

Payments also begin to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes greater than $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples filing jointly).

For people who have no tax liability or no tax-filing requirement, there is a minimum payment of $300 ($600 for married couples), plus $300 for each qualifying child.

To be eligible for the minimum payment, individuals must have earned at least $3,000 in qualifying income.

Through mid-June, the IRS had issued more than 76 million checks worth $63.8 million.

The agency expects to issue a total of 124 million checks by the end of the year.

Area residents who have questions as to whether or not they are eligible for the stimulus check can call a special rebate hotline set up by the IRS.

There is no charge for the call and the number is 1-866-234-2942.