The federal government has clarified that Social Security disability recipients will not be required to file tax returns to receive stimulus checks as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, signed into law by President Trump March 27, 2020.
Under the bill, one-time checks in the amount of $1,200 will go to individuals ($2,400 for couples who filed joint taxes) who earned less than $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers) on their most recent tax returns, which is either the person’s 2018 or 2019 returns, depending on if they have already filed for this year. Individuals earning up to $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers) will receive smaller stimulus checks. Families are entitled to an additional $500 per child in the household under age 17.
Many low-income people, however, do not file tax returns because they simultaneously earn too little income and lack sufficient employment history for that year to be eligible for a refund. This population includes some of the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus — the elderly and people with disabilities. It is estimated that more than 15 million Social Security beneficiaries did not file tax returns last year, including many people with disabilities receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
On March 30, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published a bulletin stating that all people would need to file tax returns to receive stimulus checks—including Social Security disability recipients. This meant that many people in this vulnerable population were at risk of their stimulus checks being delayed for months.
After an outcry from disability advocacy groups, 41 Democratic senators sent the White House a letter April 1, calling the tax filing requirement a “significant burden” and demanding that the IRS revise its guidance.
On April 2, the IRS agreed and changed its policy to not force Social Security recipients to file tax returns to obtain stimulus checks. Instead, the IRS will send the checks either by mail or directly into the recipient’s bank account, if the IRS has direct deposit information for the person on file. (People not receiving SSDI or SSI who normally do not file a return will still need to file a simpler tax form to receive their stimulus checks.)
“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a news release.
In 2008, at the start of the Great Recession, all stimulus recipients were similarly required to file tax returns in order to receive checks. A subsequent Treasury Department analysis found that about 3.5 million SSDI and SSI recipients failed to receive stimulus checks that they were entitled to under the legislation.
People with incomes below $69,000 are eligible for free tax-filing software. Click here for further information on the IRS’s free filing programs.
Click here to read the full stimulus bill, titled the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.