Seniors eligible for economic stimulus checks

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By The Staff

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer answers questions about aging issues.

Question: I have been hearing on the news lately about the economic stimulus check that the Internal Revenue Service is going to be sending out this year. I am confused. Will seniors get this rebate? First they said we did not qualify and now I am hearing that we do.

What is the real answer, will I be getting this check or not? It is difficult making ends meet on a fixed budget and this money sure would make a difference to my wife and me.

Answer: The short answer to your question is yes, seniors do qualify for the economic stimulus payment under the final version of the legislation. The important thing to know is that you need to file a federal tax return to receive the payment, and you need to do so soon.

The Internal Revenue Service is in the process of mailing special information packages to 20.5 million recipients of Social Security or Veterans Affairs benefits - primarily senior citizens - to help them get their 2008 economic stimulus payment. Many of these probably did not file a return for 2006 but must file for 2007 to receive the stimulus payment.

In the past, Social Security income, railroad retirement benefits and veterans' payments were not subject to income tax in some cases. That meant that many seniors were not required to file an annual income tax return. The economic stimulus law passed in February includes a special provision allowing Social Security recipients and recipients of certain other federal benefits to count those funds toward the $3,000 qualifying income requirement for the stimulus payment.

To put this into terms we can all understand, a senior who had $500 in earned income and $2,500 in any combination of the benefits described above can count those payments toward his qualifying income to reach the $3,000 earned income requirement. One thing that has not changed is that the individual will not owe taxes on such income, as in any normal tax year.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, to qualify for the economic stimulus package anyone who is due a tax rebate should file a 2007 return, even if the person's income isn't subject to income tax

The 10-page tax package is specially designed for people who may qualify for an economic stimulus payment, but who normally aren't required to file a tax return. It contains everything recipients will need to file a 2007 tax form immediately. Each package contains an informational notice, tips for completing Form 1040A, a sample Form 1040A and an actual Form 1040A for the filer to complete.

Seniors should complete 2007 Internal Revenue Service Form 1040 or Form 1040A, entering their name, address, Social Security Number, and filing status.

You will also need to indicate the amount of benefits reported in January on Form 1099-SSA. If you normally do not file a tax return, you will need to write the words "Stimulus Payment" at the top of your 1040A or 1040.

The economic stimulus package should help to boost our sluggish economy, and these funds could have a great impact on seniors living on a fixed income.

Most of these tax rebates will range from $300 to $600 for individuals and $600 to $1,200 for joint filers.

If you have any questions about the economic stimulus package I encourage you to contact the Internal Revenue Service.

You can call toll-free (800) 829-1040 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. or visit the Web site at www.irs.gov. There's also a toll-free number for those with hearing impairments, (800) 829-4059 (TDD).

Though the Lieutenant Governor's Office on Aging does not have tax advisors on staff, you are welcome to call our office at (800) 868-9095.

Andre Bauer is lieutenant governor for South Carolina.