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Seniors, veterans need to file returns to get payment

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By Johnathan Ryan

Just because you haven’t been required to file a federal tax return because you receive government benefits as income in past years doesn’t mean you won’t have to this year.

If you want to take part in this year’s economic stimulus package, you’ll have to file a return.

Those who receive any combination of Social Security, veterans or disability benefits as their only source(s) of income can file a tax return and be eligible for a check or direct-deposit payment from the federal government of up to $300 for individuals and $600 per couple. There is also a $300 benefit for each dependent child.

To be eligible, at least $3,000 in income needs to be reported and one must not be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return.

Completing the return, either a 1040 or 1040-A form, doesn’t take long, said Nancy Mobley, AARP tax aide director for Lancaster County.

The free tax service has extra volunteers to help those who normally don’t file tax returns but still want the stimulus.

“We’ll have more workers and they’ll be just doing the stimulus returns,” Mobley said, noting the program’s normal operations will being going on as well.

People just filing taxes to be part of the stimulus package have beyond April 15 to file, Mobley said. However, the local AARP tax service, located at the Lancaster County Community Center, will only be open through April 14.

Many organizations are trying to inform senior citizens about the need to file a tax return to take part in the stimulus. It is estimated that 20 million seniors rely primarily on Social Security for income and normally do not file a return. Considering that large number, spreading the correct information is critical.

“We’re really trying to get the word out about this,” said Sally Sherrin, executive director of the Lancaster County Council on Aging.

She said seniors who visit senior centers are being informed about their eligibility as well as the AARP’s offer to help complete returns.

Lancaster County Veterans Affairs Officer Linda Blackmon said her office is informing veterans as they stop by the local office about the need to file.

The National Council on Aging is sending letters to seniors informing them of the need to file as well.

Mobley asks that people bring all documents showing income received, even those showing some interest received from a savings account, when they visit. The program operates on a first come, first serve basis.

For those wanting to receive their stimulus money through direct deposit, Mobley said for them to bring their bank’s routing number as well as their bank account number.

The Lancaster County Community Center is located at 500 E. Meeting St. in Lancaster.

The AARP tax service is offered on Monday and Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m. through April 14.

For details, call Mobley at 286-9523.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program may be reached at 1-800-906-9887 for assistance.

Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at jryan@thelancasternews.com or 416-8416