Treasury Department says in reversal that Americans on Social Security don't need to file a tax return to get a $1,200 stimulus check

ReutersTreasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump.
  • The Treasury Department announced late on Wednesday that Americans receiving Social Security benefits would no longer need to file a tax return to qualify for a $US1,200 check from the federal government.
  • The reversal came after the IRS instructed Social Security beneficiaries to file a “simple” tax return, provoking extensive backlash from advocates and lawmakers.
  • Advocates said vulnerable Americans should not be required to file a return in the middle of a pandemic, since the government already sends them monthly payments.
  • Forty-one senators sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday saying the payments should be automatic.
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The Treasury Department announced late on Wednesday that Americans receiving Social Security benefits would no longer have to file their taxes to get a $US1,200 stimulus check from the federal government.

“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return do not need to take an action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The reversal came after the IRS on Monday directed Social Security beneficiaries to file a “simple” tax return to be eligible, provoking extensive backlash from advocates and lawmakers.

The move could have shut out millions of elderly Americans and people with disabilities from getting a check under the $US2.2 trillion stimulus package that President Donald Trump recently signed into law. People are eligible for the money even if they haven’t filed a tax return in several years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The legislation already contained language saying the Treasury would review Social Security data to deliver the money to beneficiaries. Individuals earning below $US75,000 are set to get the full $US1,200 check, but the amount scales down until the eligibility cutoff at $US99,000.

Advocates for low-income Americans argued that the additional hurdle would burden people during a public-health crisis.

Chye-Ching Huang, the director of economic policy at the left-leaning Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in a tweet that “it makes no sense to impose a new paperwork burden on millions of seniors during a pandemic.”


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Democrats on Capitol Hill had also criticised the IRS’s move. On Wednesday, 41 senators sent a letter to the Trump administration saying that instructing older Americans and people with disabilities to file a tax return would be “a significant burden” and urging it to reconsider. They called for making the payments automatic instead.

Some Republicans were angered as well. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said Congress included language in the stimulus law to ensure that Social Security beneficiaries wouldn’t have to file a tax return to receive the money.

“IRS should follow the law that Congress passed,” Hawley said in a tweet.

The Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities had estimated that about 15 million Americans on Social Security would have to file a return to get the payment, even though the government already sends them monthly checks.

When the Bush administration sent $US600 checks to Americans before the 2008 financial crisis, nearly 3.5 million people on Social Security missed out on the payment because they were similarly required to file a tax return and didn’t do so.

Mnuchin previously said the tax-free payments would start going out by April 17, beginning with direct deposits and then checks in the mail.

Dependents older than 16, people without a Social Security number, and single filers earning more than $US99,000 a year are among the people who won’t get checks.


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This story has been updated.

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